Biden Policies Have Caused a Surge in Unaccompanied Children, But the Agency Charged with Monitoring Their Well-Being Can’t Locate 85,000 of Them
Since the Biden administration has come to office, there has been an explosion in the number of unaccompanied children (UACs) entering the country illegally. In FY 2020, the last full year of the Trump administration, 30,557 UACs were apprehended crossing the border between ports of entry. By FY 2022, that figure soared to 149,093. UACs are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is then tasked with placing these minors in the care of sponsors.
Consistent with its disastrous record of handling all matters pertaining to illegal immigration, the administration has been equally remiss in ensuring the well-being of the UACs they release from custody. Under an edict from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (caught on tape), agency personnel have been instructed to “speed up the assembly line” and release UACs to “sponsors” as quickly as possible. According to an agency whistleblower, HHS personnel who questioned these policies were told by a department attorney, “We only get sued for keeping them too long. We don’t get sued by traffickers.”
The results of these policies are not just disastrous, but shameful. In many cases, the sponsors to whom UACs are released are members of the criminal cartels that smuggle them into the United States. According to reporting by the New York Times, 66 percent of UACs are working at full-time jobs in order to pay off debts to the cartels. Many of the jobs entail difficult or dangerous manual labor. And these kids may be considered the lucky ones. Others – nobody knows how many – fall prey to sex traffickers.
A Florida grand jury, looking at the consequences of these policies, concluded that what is happening is nothing short of government sanctioned child abuse. “In reality, ORR is facilitating the forced migration, sale, and abuse of foreign children,” charged the grand jury. UACs are being encouraged to “undertake and/or be subjected to a harrowing trek to our border, ultimately abandoning significant numbers of those who survive the journey to an uncertain fate with persons who are largely unvetted. This process exposes children to horrifying health conditions, constant criminal threats, labor and sex trafficking, robbery, rape, and other experiences not done justice by mere words.”
In response to reports of widespread abuse of UACs, the director of the ORR’s Administration for Children and Families, Robin Dunn Marcos, was called to testify before Congress in April. At a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) confronted Ms. Marcos about reports that her agency has lost contact with some 85,000 UACs who have been released to the custody of sponsors. Marcos replied that she did not know the precise number of UACs who have disappeared from her agency’s radar screen, adding that ACF’s procedure is to make three phone calls to the numbers provided by the sponsors. It was a response that further infuriated Rep. Gosar, who chastised her for not having information she knew the committee was going to ask about.
In order to address the growing problem of UACs entering the United States, FAIR has called upon Congress to enact legislation that explicitly allows for the prompt removal of UACs. A 2008 law meant to prevent human trafficking has had precisely the opposite effect, virtually assuring that UACs from noncontiguous nations would be allowed to enter the U.S., while a legal settlement agreed to by the Clinton administration requires that UACs be released promptly to sponsors.
Documented evidence that UACs are being abused and trafficked, combined with the Biden administration’s policies that place the prompt release of migrant children ahead of their safety, make it clear that Congress must act immediately.