The Obama administration handed off an unknown number of migrant minors into the custody of human traffickers under the assumption that these so-called “caregivers” were related to the children.
In the wake of the current debate over how to handle illegal aliens who claim asylum while crossing the border with children in tow, supporters of tighter border controls point to issues related to not knowing whether the children are indeed sons and daughters of the border crossers. Previous reports say the federal government already had a poor record of placing these children in dangerous environments during the Obama administration.
The Associated Press reported two years ago that in April 2014 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relaxed its safety standards to promptly move migrant children out of government shelters and into sponsors’ homes when waves of illegal aliens surged across the southern border.
However, according to the AP’s reporting, the lowered standards resulted in children landing in unsafe homes where they were “sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.”
The AP found almost 30 children who were placed with “caregivers” who exposed them to sexual abuse, labor trafficking, abuse or neglect.
HHS lowered standards by ceasing required fingerprinting of much of the adults claiming children as theirs. In April 2014, HHS ceased asking for original copies of birth certificates from most sponsors to prove who they were.
In May 2014, the AP noted, HHS stopped filling out forms that asked for sponsors’ identifying information prior to placing any of the children in the sponsors’ residence. Finally, the agency ended FBI background checks of the caregivers they were sending the migrant children to.
HHS estimated that around 90,000 migrant children were placed into sponsor care between 2013 and 2015, but the agency did not know how many of those children were trafficked because the department failed to keep track of them after their placement.
Following the AP’s piece on the matter, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs released a 56-page report on “Protecting Unaccompanied Alien Children from Trafficking and Other Abuses.”
The report urged HHS to roll back the loosening of safety standards by the agency and bring back fingerprinting and background checks of potential sponsors, among other things.
Presently, there is an impasse as to where the unaccompanied children should go when illegal aliens who cross the border with them claim they are their parents.
For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken a law.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) June 17, 2018
Democrats have accused the Trump administration of “breaking up” migrant families who reach the southern border but the White House says it is simply enforcing federal law that existed long before President Trump came to office.
“The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close. And these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade. The president is simply enforcing them,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last Thursday.
Between April 19 and May 31, there were 1,995 children separated from 1,940 adults by U.S. Border Patrol, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed Saturday.
The numbers represent families who were separated because of illegal entry, immigration violations, possible criminal conduct by the parent, and cases where officials could not verify the family relationship, the DHS spokesperson said.