For the last week and a half, the media has been telling you that 1500 immigrant children were separated from their parents and went missing. They’ve been trying to convince you that these children have somehow disappeared into sex trafficking, slavery, and just about every other thing under the sun, but certainly not good homes with family members. But is that story really true, or are you being fed a line? HHS’s latest explanation about immigrant children and where they really are paints a much different picture.
• HHS admits they can’t find nearly 1,500 children, but are those children really missing? Their clarification on Tuesday morning reveals that such claims are extremely misleading.
• It seems that HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) placed these children with either relatives, people known to the child, or in some limited cases, local care facilities. The only reason HHS can’t find these children is that their caregivers aren’t responding to calls.
• U.S. acting Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Eric Hargan explained. “These children are not ‘lost’; their sponsors—who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them—simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made,” he said.
• Typically, HHS calls placement guardians and family members at the 30-day mark. This courtesy call is completely voluntary; no regulation exists to require it in the first place. But HHS has explained they make the calls in an effort to ensure child safety after placement.
• If guardians or relatives don’t answer the telephone — often because they are themselves illegal aliens and would face deportation — HHS has very few options at their disposal. Many of these families disappear into the system for decades at a time to avoid removal.
• HHS official Steven Wagner also was quick to point out that resources provided to ORR by the government do not even come close to being enough for more oversight. “It was never intended to be a foster care system with more than 10,000 children in custody at an immediate cost to the federal taxpayer of over one billion dollars per year.”
• Another “fact” being shared by media, often in conjunction with the idea that children have gone missing, is the claim that are being separated from their parents at the border unwillingly. The same claims suggest that those children spend time in detention facilities or prison-like cells until either ORR can find them a placement or return them to their home countries.
• The issue of children being “missing” and the issue of children being separated from children are very much separate. The first is a conflation of fact; the second raises legitimate concerns about proper care and ethics. But they aren’t interdependent, nor does every facet of the situation indicate a failure on the part of HHS, ORR, or ICE.
• Children are being separated from their parents at the border, but there is little evidence to suggest they are being trafficked or sold into slavery just because they can’t be contacted. In fact, some human rights agencies have pointed out that being unable to contact these children may be the best scenario. If ICE were to track down their illegal guardians, they would most likely be deported.