A Senate subcommittee hearing on Thursday found that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lost track of 1,475 children living in the country illegally after placing nearly 7,635 children in the homes of sponsors last year.
After HHS officials made phone calls to check up on the children they had placed in homes, it was realized that 1,475 children could not be reached by the numbers their names were associated with, according to an official who spoke to Time.
Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows over 200,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the United States since 2014. Such high numbers of unaccompanied migrant children entering the country’s borders every year pose a major problem to federal aid officials who are supposed to keep track of their safety after they are placed in homes.
A hearing on Thursday discussed the failure of federal officials to take care of undocumented children in the United States earlier in 2016.
A 2016 Associated Press investigation found that, since an influx of illegal immigrants crossed over the U.S. border in 2013, “more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes [by federal officials] where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay,” Time explains.
“At the time, many adult sponsors didn’t undergo thorough background checks, government officials rarely visited homes and in some cases had no idea that sponsors had taken in several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.”
In 2017, HHS “offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors,” but social service workers still have had a difficult time keeping track of children after they are placed in the homes. It is believed that some of them are being kidnapped and forced into slavery.
President Donald Trump has been trying to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the U.S. by strengthening border protection and amending a law that lets illegal immigrant children return to their home countries so as long as returning does not put them at a greater risk of human trafficking.
Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that ensures the protection of undocumented minors. It stated, “The Secretary shall take appropriate action to require that all Department of Homeland Security personnel are properly trained…to ensure that unaccompanied alien children are properly processed, receive appropriate care and placement while in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, and, when appropriate, are safely repatriated in accordance with law.”