After court documents revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has been ferrying illegal alien children detained at the border to their illegal alien parents living in the United States, Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter is looking for answers.
“I am shocked to learn that the federal government is a participant in an international human smuggling conspiracy,” Vitter wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Wednesday. “I cannot imagine a case in which such a policy would be in accordance with the established mission of the Department, particularly since this encourages additional smuggling and sometimes extreme abuse of the smuggled children involved.”
Last month, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas Andrew Hanen chided DHS for helping to helping to deliver an illegal immigrant child, detained at the border with her human smuggler, to her illegal immigrant mother living in Virginia. The mother had agreed to pay $8,500 to have human smugglers bring the child to her from El Salvador.
“Despite this setback [the child’s detention at the border], the goal of the conspiracy was completed thanks to the actions of the United States Government,” Hanen wrote. “This Court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security (hereinafter ‘DHS’) of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States.”
Hanen further noted that this was “the fourth case with the same factual situation this court has had in as many weeks.”
The president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and staff, Chris Crane, later told The Daily Caller that this happens “every day.”
According to Vitter, this practice not only increases the number of illegal border crossings, by specifically children (Texas portions of the border from FY2010 to FY2012 saw an 82 percent increase in the number of apprehensions of undocumented children), but it is also dangerous for the children who are at the mercy of human smugglers and hurts Customs and Border Patrol morale.
Vitter pressed the department to lay out more details about this practice — specifically how long it has been going on, what agency carries it out, how often it occurs, what statutes allows it and who initially authorized it.
Vitter also wants information about how DHS’s completion of smugglers missions does not violate a United Nations protocol ratified by the United States requiring the country to criminalize human smuggling.
The Louisiana senator further requested information specific to the case Hanen detailed, notably about the possible repercussions for those involved.
According to DHS, the department is following protocol mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act
“The Department of Homeland Security adheres to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and other applicable laws when encountering unaccompanied minors and, as with all individuals encountered by DHS, we are committed to their safe, fair and humane treatment,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron explained in an email to TheDC.
“Consistent with statute, DHS screens unaccompanied alien children for human trafficking, notifies the proper authorities, and then transfers children into the custody of Health and Human Services,” she added.
There are five requirements for an unaccompanied illegal immigrant minor to be returned to their home country (they must be a resident of a country contiguous with the U.S., they are unaccompanied by a guardian, they do not have any indications of trafficking, they do not claim credible fear, and they are able to participate in a hearing).
If the minor does not meet the requirements they are transferred into the care of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.
*This article has been updated with DHS’ response