According to an analysis of federal data by McClatchy, the Trump administration may have lost track of thousands more unaccompanied migrant children than previously reported.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told a Senate subcommittee last month that they were unable to account for 1,475 children who were places in sponsor homes. But according to McClatchy’s analysis, that number is likely closer to 6,000.
After HHS checked in on 7,635 migrant children, they reported that 14 percent of the sponsors homes they checked in on didn’t respond. The data reviewed shows that the U.S. placed 42,500 children in the care of sponsors in 2017. McClatchy determined that just under 6,000 children were unaccounted for.
The government insists that the unaccounted for children are not “missing,” adding that they are no longer legally responsible for children once they are placed in the care of sponsors, who are usually parents or relatives. Since some of those parents/relatives do not have legal status, they are likely not to respond to welfare inquiries from the government federal officials said. Officials reportedly did not conduct follow-ups.
Steven Wagner, who is the acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children & Families, said that there’s “no reason to believe that anything has happened to the kids.”
“If you call a friend and they don’t answer the phone, you don’t assume that they’ve been kidnapped,” he said, according to McClatchy. “So that characterization that the kids are missing is incorrect.”
Due to what some immigration activists call a “culture of fear,” sponsors in areas where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently conducted raids are less likely to respond to welfare checks.
“To the extent that there are problems for protection of unaccompanied children, this will only become worse as they put more kids in the unaccompanied category by ripping them away from their families,” Clara Long, a U.S. researcher at the international nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch, told McClatchy.
A bipartisan backlash to the Trumps administration’s policies of child separation is growing. In the wake of growing outrage, House Republicans have amended their compromise immigration bill to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from separating migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
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