The federal government has placed thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children in the homes of sponsors, but last year it couldn’t account for nearly 1,500 of them.
Steven Wagner, a top official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), disclosed the number to a Senate subcommittee last month while discussing the state of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) that oversees the care of unaccompanied immigrant children. Wagner’s statement has attracted more attention amid reports that immigrant children are being separated from their parents at the U.S. border. “I understand that it has been HHS’s long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care,” Wagner said.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families said it was reviewing the statements and recommendations made at last month’s hearing, but it would not comment on them prior to making an official response to Congress. “When an unaccompanied alien child is placed with a sponsor, he or she ceases to be in the custody of the US government and all HHS-provided subsistence, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education, ends at that point and the child becomes the responsibility of his or her parent, guardian or sponsor,” the statement added.
1,500 Immigrant Kids Not Lost, HHS Official Says
A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday called reports that the agency has lost nearly 1,500 immigrant children false and misleading.
The children are not lost, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement. Their sponsors simply have not responded to follow-up calls from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the HHS department that oversees the care of unaccompanied alien or minor children.
The agency was under no obligation to make the 30-day follow-up calls to ensure that the children and their sponsors needed no additional services, he said. And later added that this voluntary action is being used to confuse and spread misinformation.
“While there are many possible reasons for this, in many cases sponsors cannot be reached because they themselves are illegal aliens and do not want to be reached by federal authorities,” he continued. So continues the back and forth over who’s responsible for the unaccounted children.
Trump Blasts Critics Over Outdated Obama-Era Photo of Detained Immigrant Kids
President Donald Trump on Tuesday taunted online activists who shared photos of children at immigration detention facilities as a means of criticizing his administration, noting that the photos had been taken during the tenure of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“Democrats mistakenly tweet 2014 pictures from Obama’s term showing children from the Border in steel cages. They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires,” Trump wrote online. “Dems must agree to Wall and new Border Protection for good of country…Bipartisan Bill!”
The photograph in question began to circulate online over the weekend, shared by Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and activists Shaun King and Linda Sarsour, among others. It shows two children lying on green mats on a concrete floor behind a chain-link fence. The photo was taken by The Associated Press and was published by The Arizona Republic in 2014 as part of a photo gallery. Favreau later deleted his tweet.
Trump Administration Will Fingerprint Child Migrants’ Parents
The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said on Tuesday, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.
U.S. laws and legal precedent limit the time juveniles can be detained, so those caught crossing the border alone are often released to adult sponsors in the United States. The children are then expected to show up to immigration court to fight their deportation cases.
“We’re going to more thoroughly vet sponsors,” said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, in a telephone briefing with reporters. “With the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security we will conduct a fingerprint-based background check on every sponsor.” A DHS official who declined to be named said they expect implementation in a few weeks.
Transgender Woman Seeking U.S. Asylum in Migrant Caravan Dies in ICE Custody
Advocates called on U.S. immigration authorities Wednesday to stop holding transgender migrants seeking asylum in detention centers after a transgender woman died while in custody at a facility in New Mexico. The 33-year-old woman from Honduras, identified by advocates as Roxana Hernandez, was part of the caravan of Central American migrants that traveled to the U.S. border through Mexico.
The detainee was being held in the transgender unit at the Cibola County Detention Center in Milan, New Mexico, when she began suffering from complications related to HIV, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. She was hospitalized at Cibola General Hospital and then airlifted to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, ICE said in a written statement. She died Friday at the center, and the preliminary cause was cardiac arrest.
Organizers from the immigrant-rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (Town Without Borders), questioned whether Hernandez had received adequate medical care while in custody of Customs and Border Protection and then ICE.
Sheriff Candidates Say They Would Tackle Immigration Challenges Differently
A red-hot immigration debate fueled in part by a Trump administration lawsuit that takes aim at several of California’s so-called sanctuary laws has both sheriff’s candidates speaking out about the issue. Although the two men largely agree that the Sheriff’s Department has no business enforcing immigration law, they have very different opinions about how closely their agency should work with ICE in county jails.
The two disagree about how imperative it is for federal authorities to work closely with the county’s jail system, which is run by the Sheriff’s Department, a core issue of the controversial sanctuary state law, Senate Bill 54. The legislation prevents jailers from notifying ICE about inmates who are about to be released unless they have committed one or more of about 800 specific, serious crimes.
Gore has taken issue with the bill, saying it does little to address repeat offenders of minor crimes that can still plague a community. Conversely, Myers says the importance of a jailer’s ability to contact federal authorities about imprisoned unauthorized immigrants to facilitate deportation or other federal action is overblown.
Mass Protests Planned in 30 Cities Over “Inhumane” Separation of Families at Border
Thousands of people across 30 different cities are expected to participate in protests Friday against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on families caught illegally entering into the U.S.
Launched by a coalition of immigrant rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, We Belong Together and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Families Belong Together Day of Action was organized in response to the Trump administration’s “inhumane” decision to start separating families caught crossing the border, a break with a longtime immigration policy of allowing families to stay together while their cases are processed.
Protests are also being planned in at least 29 other cities, including in California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois and New York, We Belong Together said in a press release. Another protest is being organized in Barcelona, Spain.