US misplaced hundreds of migrant kids launched from custody as DOJ investigates labour trafficking, stories
The Biden government has reportedly lost contact with nearly 40 percent of the released migrant children.
According to a report, the federal government is unable to contact thousands of unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally, even as authorities investigate whether the migrants are trafficked and exploited for child labor.
According to data received by Axios as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, calls to dismissed children or their godparents went unanswered in up to 37 percent of cases from January to May.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made 14,600 calls to contact the minors 30 days after they were released from detention centers for migrant children, Axios reported.
In 4,890 of these cases, the ministry was unable to reach the child or their sponsor. The proportion of unanswered calls rose from 26 percent in January to 37 percent in May.
The overall picture of lost children could be significantly higher as the number of calls reported in FOIA data represents less than half of those reportedly released.
While the HHS data showed fewer than 15,000 follow-up calls, Axios reported that the department discharged 32,000 children between Joe Biden’s inauguration in January and the end of May.
At the same time as those five months, more than 65,000 unaccompanied minors illegally crossed the southern border with Mexico, the report said.
The extent of the children being displaced is due to the US Department of Justice’s Department of Human Trafficking warning that some migrant children may have been released for human trafficking and used in poultry and agricultural processing plants, according to Bloomberg Law.
An internal email the outlet received showed that on July 21, the Department of Justice wrote to the FBI, the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and the HSS warning them of “indicators of labor exploitation”.
“In some of these situations, it appears that dozens of unaccompanied minors are all fired to the same sponsor and then exploited without access to education for work in poultry processing or similar industries,” wrote Hilary Axam, director of the DOJ’s Prosecution.
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOIA call details, but a spokesperson told Axios that many sponsors, often relatives, do not want to be contacted and do not return calls.
“Although we make every effort to voluntarily screen children after we reunite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-reunification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” the spokesman said.
The “Safety and Health Follow-up” is required by the Ministry’s Refugee Resettlement Office as part of its process of closing case files on the children.
The aim of the call is to determine whether the child is still living with the sponsor, is enrolled or is attending school, is aware of upcoming court dates and is safe.
HSS has stopped sending children to at least two agriculturally dense areas under investigation for human trafficking, according to anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg.
Enterprise in Alabama and Woodburn, Oregon were both classified as suspicious after HSS released dozens of children to the same sponsors, with the DOJ allegedly saying a “significant number of minors and sponsors were involved.”
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