Biden’s HHS reportedly lost 85,000 migrant children — GOP lawmakers demand answers: Report

Republican lawmakers are demanding more information from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the reportedly 85,000 unaccompanied alien children the agency can no longer locate, according to a Wednesday letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

What’s the background?

In February 2023, the New York Times released an article that claimed the Biden administration’s HHS, which is responsible for placing unaccompanied migrant children with sponsors, could no longer get in touch with tens of thousands of children. It noted that the agency is supposed to check in on the minors by calling them one month after they are placed with a U.S.-based sponsor. The report found that “over the last two years, the agency could not reach more than 85,000 children.”

“Overall, the agency lost immediate contact with a third of migrant children” placed in its care, the Times stated. Kamara Jones, an HHS spokesperson, reportedly told the news outlet that, with the influx of migrants coming across the southern border, the agency was pressured to find sponsors for the unaccompanied children quickly, which ultimately compromised their safety.

“There are numerous places along the process to continually ensure that a placement is in the best interest of the child,” Jones told the Times.

Last month, a group of nearly two dozen Republican attorneys general sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra claiming that there is “reason to believe” some of the missing children are victims of trafficking, Fox News Digital reported.

“The United States needs to stop handing over children to ‘probable traffickers,'” the AGs wrote, noting that HHS “loosened vetting procedures.” They speculated that “thousands of children have now fallen victim to forced labor and sex trafficking.”

HHS Office of Inspector General released a report in February that found “gaps” in the agency’s sponsor screening process.

“In 16 percent of children’s case files, one or more required sponsor safety checks lacked any documentation indicating that the checkers were conducted,” the OIG reported. “For 19 percent of children who were released to sponsors with pending FBI fingerprint or State child abuse and neglect registry checks, children’s case files were never updated with the results.”

Earlier this month, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana also penned two letters, one to the Biden administration’s Department of Labor and another to HHS, warning about the “upward trend in exploitative child labor.” He blamed HHS for “relax[ing] sponsor vetting requirements.”

Lawmakers demand action

On Wednesday, 10 Republican lawmakers, spearheaded by Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas, sent a joint letter to Becerra requesting additional information regarding HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement’s process for approving sponsors and its efforts to ensure the children’s safety.

The letter, obtained by the DCNF, read, “Amid the worst border invasion in our nation’s history, it was reported last July that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) lost contact with more than 85,000 children in sponsor care. Recently, an alarming report by the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) confirmed ORR is failing to fulfill various mandatory safety checks necessary to protect the safety and well-being of unaccompanied migrant children.”

The lawmakers declared that HHS is “directly responsible for ensuring unaccompanied children are not lost, trafficked, or abused.”

“One former border agent recounted witnessing traffickers ‘providing’ children to unrelated adults at the border, only for the adults to return those children to the traffickers after reaching their destination within the U.S.,” the Republicans wrote.

Lawmakers demanded HHS answer several questions, including why the agency “remove[d] its citizenship requirement policy for UAC sponsors” and in what circumstances it does not require sponsor background checks.

“We are concerned that fraud surrounding UAC sponsorship is severe due to ORR’s lackluster policies and procedures to verify a sponsor’s identity and relationship to the child. Children apprehended, transported, and processed alone are not safe from human traffickers, who may pose as sponsors once migrant children are flown throughout the country by the federal government,” the lawmakers stated.

The letter to Becerra was signed by several Republican representatives from Texas, including Gooden, Jake Ellzey, Brian Babin, Chip Roy, Beth Van Duyne, and Pete Sessions. Signatories also included Republican Reps. Clay Higgins from Louisiana, Diana Harshbarger from Tennessee, and Tom Tiffany and Glenn Grothman from Wisconsin.

Gooden posted on social media yesterday blaming Biden and his administration for the “intentional” border crisis.

“Joe Biden is responsible for the insurrection taking place at the southern border,” he wrote.

HHS did not respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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