Opinion

Grassley Finds Thousands Of Guardians Of Illegal Alien Children Unvetted, Have Criminal Records

Ian Smith Immigration Reform Law Institute

Last week Senator Chuck Grassley released findings from a DHS-whistleblower that show several thousand of the Unaccompanied Alien Minors (UAM) apprehended at the border over the last two years have been placed with sponsors who have serious criminal records. It’s estimated over 10 percent of UAMs are now living with sponsors previously charged with serious crimes, including child molestation, sexual assault, human trafficking and homicide. Considering the president’s line that the ongoing UAM-crisis is simply about kids “escaping rape and violence,” the vetting gaffe’s a cruel bit of irony for those kids now being subjected to possible endangerment.

The Grassley findings should be embarrassing for the administration, especially considering the leap in expenditures the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has recently committed to the area of background checks — HHS takes UAMs off the hands of Border Patrol after they’re apprehended. Through public records requests, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has obtained documents showing taxpayer funds earmarked for sponsorship-checks more than tripled since Obama’s first “dreamer” amnesty in 2012 from $2.1 million to $7.4 million. Indeed, the demand’s certainly been high. Other documents IRLI’s obtained show actual “reunions” between UAMs and sponsors (which includes parents) going up from 9,514 in 2012 to 53,379 in 2014.

If Homeland Security officials respond to Grassley’s findings they’ll no doubt pin the blame on a natural lack of preparation owing to 2014’s “surprise” crisis. The line from open-borders pushers has so far been that the influx has nothing to do with the president’s 2012 amnesty and ongoing threats of expansion, but that the minors are escaping “rape,” “violence,” and even “machismo culture” in their home countries — Crime figures from Central America, however, actually show murder rates steady or declining. Other agency records IRLI’s obtained, however, challenge this narrative.

Although HHS previously conducted background checks in-house with the Office of Security and Strategic Information, as early as 2012 the agency and Obama’s immigration authorities apparently needed help and hired a third-party contractor, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Services, Inc. (LIRS), to supplement the government’s work — According to grant award documents IRLI’s obtained, on top of background checks LIRS also “protects, embraces, and empowers” UAMs through “holistic care” as well as “culturally appropriate short and long term foster care.” As the “refugee” in LIRS’s name entails, the group also receives taxpayer funds for “refugee resettlement” services and has been at the center of ongoing lobbying efforts to bring in more refugees from Syria.

LIRS’s grant applications show that the Obama Administration clearly knew about the ramped up numbers of minors at the border well before it became a “surprise” in the summer of 2014. As LIRS notes in its 2013 application, HHS has historically served “between 5,000 and 7,000 unaccompanied children per year,” however, they have “recently experienced a dramatic increase in arrivals” as early as 2012 with “over 14,000 children arriving” that year (emphasis added). By the end of 2013, they noted HHS expected a further jump in numbers to 23,000.

Further, taxpayer-funded grants to LIRS were also rising well before the UAM-crisis story broke. In the combined fiscal years of 2009 and 2010, LIRS received $19 million in UAM-related grants. Then, in 2011 and 2012, which covers the president’s unilateral “dreamer” amnesty, they received $24 million. For 2013 and 2014 that figure tripled to $61 million

The clear lack of vetting of UAM-sponsors may not completely be Obama’s fault, however, at least not directly. Contractors, like LIRS, are paid per head, meaning, as Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies puts it, the more “warm bodies” the better. Such a pay-structure would seem to invite perverse incentives, such as creating a “lean and lite” vetting-process for sponsorship-checks. Sen. Grassley may want to ask HHS what the sponsor rejection-rates are between LIRS and HHS. Same goes for their follow-up visits to sponsored-UAMs, which LIRS also gets taxpayer dollars for. How many of these visits actually led to investigations from LIRS versus HHS? Were these visits merely perfunctory? Many were, apparently.

The vetting gaffe is merely a symptom of the immigration system’s breakdown under Obama. At the start of last year’s crisis he promised that apprehended-UAM would be sent back home but then later reneged, stating that America is “not a nation that deports kids.” But basing public policy on feel-good moralizing clearly has consequences, as we can now see.

What amazes one about the immigration debate today is the open-borders lobby’s shameless deployment of emotional blackmail against the American public and the complete lack of push-back from conservative members of Congress. Those politicians perennially on the back-foot need to address who really has the monopoly on morality on this issue. Is it illegal aliens who have intentionally breakup their own families by leaving home for the U.S. and later hiring smugglers to bring their kids through our sovereign borders? Is it those living in Mexico and Central America who send their kids on a dangerous journey to friends and family in the U.S., many of whom are deportable themselves? Is it pro-amnesty politicians and their DHS-enablers who coax floods of minors to come over our border with promises of “permisos?” Or is it those patriotic Americans who worry that their progeny will inherit a broken nation stripped of the rule of law and all sense of national unity?

Obama may be right; perhaps the American public should vote on the basis of compassion. True compassion.