A Senate investigation shows that the Department of Health and Human Services could not “determine with certainty” the location of 1,488 out of 11,254 children placed with sponsors in 2018 — more than 13 percent of the children who entered the United States this year — after making follow-up phone calls to those sponsors between April and June.
The Trump administration’s inability to locate these children “raised concerns that they could end up with human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives,” according to the Times.
The administration had a nearly identical scandal over “lost children” in April of this year, when HHS revealed that it was unable to locate 1,475 children who had come to the United States in 2017.
An HHS spokesperson insisted to the Times that these children are not “lost” — that the sponsors had all been “vetted for criminality and ability to provide for” the children, and “simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made.”
The spokesperson also claimed the department was not legally responsible for children once they were placed into the care of sponsors.
Nonetheless, the children are still unaccounted for.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have introduced legislation to clarify HHS’s responsibility in these matters, given the Trump administration’s repeated failures to keep track of such large numbers of vulnerable children.
Some, but not all, of these children may include those who were unwillingly separated from their parents earlier this year as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border.
In a deliberately cruel attempt by the administration to reduce the number of families fleeing to the United States, thousands of children were ripped away from their parents and flown to shelters and foster homes all over the country — often with no way to guarantee that they’d ever see their parents again.
The policy drew worldwide condemnation, and was widely acknowledged as a form of child abuse. Immense public pressure led Trump to walk back the policy — but not before at least one toddler fell ill in a child detention center and died shortly after being released.
“Children who risk their lives to make a dangerous journey in pursuit of asylum shouldn’t then have to worry about falling victim to human trafficking or being handed over to abusive or neglectful adults in the United States,” Blumenthal said.
Published with permission of The American Independent.