The Trump Administration Has Lost Track of Another 1,500 Immigrant Children

Back in April, it was revealed to the public that 1,475 undocumented immigrant children which had been detained in the United States could not be located after their release. Now, a new report has come out which shows that another 1,500 children are unaccounted for, making nearly 3,000 children whose location are entirely unknown to government officials.

These children, after having entered the country without legal documentation, were all detained this year. Once these children were released from detainment facilities, they were then handed over to sponsors, in many cases family members already residing in the United States. However, it would appear the government has failed to keep tabs on nearly 3,000 of these children and quite possibly many more.

The standard protocol is for the Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, to contact sponsors 30 days after assuming guardianship of these children. This is done by making a call to the sponsor; however, this system has not succeeded in nearly 3,000 cases, as we now know. There are a few possible explanations for why this is happening.

Putting aside the DHHS’ flimsy followup system, it is entirely likely that in at least some cases sponsors are deliberately avoiding contact with the federal government over concern that doing so may mean risking the children being deported or even their own deportation. Given the current climate surrounding ICE’s immigration crackdowns and the associated uncertainty, this wouldn’t be a surprising response.

However, because of this very situation, it has greatly increased the likelihood of another possible explanation: These children are now victims of human trafficking. While this certainly isn’t the case for all 3,000 unaccounted for children (hopefully), it would be naive to assume this isn’t happening to some.

Several major groups which monitor human trafficking and slavery around the world have drawn an explicit connection between the practice of detaining immigrant minors with a heightened risk of being trafficked. This even includes the current U.S. State Department, which several months ago released a report which stated just this (though stopped short of mentioning the U.S.’ own detention policies, of course).

Right now it is not entirely clear what role the DHHS is meant to play regarding the care of these children once they have left government facilities. This is why new bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to the Senate. It aims to clarify this process and requires more than a bare minimum of involvement from DHHS when it comes to following up with these children. Among other things, it would require background checks to be run on sponsors before giving them guardianship and require DHHS officials to regularly ensure the children are being properly cared for.

The DHHS would also have a greater responsibility to ensure these children attend their immigration hearings (rather than carrying them out in their and their sponsor’s absence) in addition to expanding the number of judges assigned to overseeing such hearings.

Though the matter of these unaccounted for children is complicated and requires more than the passage of a single bill in Congress, this would be a good first step. After all, as it stands, it is beyond outrageous that now, the U.S. government is scooping up children and placing them in situations that could, and in some cases are undoubtedly, resulting in human trafficking.

Photo Credit: Daily Chalkupy via Flickr

46 comments

KS G
KS Goh2 months ago

Thanks for the article

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Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Dot A
Dot A2 months ago

L&O:SVU tackled this subject matter last night. {10/04/18} Clearly, the tragedy of ripping a child away from a parent is experienced as cruel and completely heartless. - as is our POTUS. His history is from privilege and wealth. It does not resonate with dt that for the majority of our human race, survival is tenuous, and only extreme measures of taking a risk may offer a chance to live a decent life. Otherwise, his goal of solving these tragic situations would not be to condone further cruelty, especially to the most innocent of all, the children.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Awful.

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silja salonen
silja s2 months ago

disgusted with administration ...

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S M
S M2 months ago

How?! They must be working hard at ‘losing’ them. Not easy to ‘lose’ that many.

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Carole R
Carole R2 months ago

Awful.

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David F
David F2 months ago

This issue disappears when we build the wall.

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