The Trump administration is now ripping children away from their parents at the border. And that’s not the worst of it. They’ve also lost, yes lost, 1,475 children.
Is this really who we are as a country now? It is absolutely inhumane what we’re doing to families at the border. This shouldn’t be who we are. But with Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling Congress, this is who we are. And it’s disgusting.
On Thursday, senators on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hammered Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families, over the treatment of unaccompanied children at our Southern border. Senators were furious about a report put out by the Office of Refugee Resettlement showing that HHS had failed to protect migrant children from human traffickers and other abuses.
During the hearing, Wagner said that, between October 2016 and December 2017, HHS was unable to locate almost 1,500 children out of the 7,635 children that they tried to reach. That’s nearly 20% that they just lost. According to Wagner, the agency doesn’t have the capability to track these kids down.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to defend the administration’s inhumane policy of separating children from their parents to Congress. She said that within 48 hours of the children being taken into custody they are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, who then finds a place for them to stay.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman said, “It’s just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don’t know what’s going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring.”
A documentary from PBS’s Frontline said that the federal government has actually released some minor children to human traffickers.
“Sponsors are meant to ensure that minors show up at their immigration hearings. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pressed Wagner on why more than half of unaccompanied minors in 2017 did not show up to their immigration hearings. When asked how HHS tracks the missing children, Wagner said that finding out whether children have attended their immigration hearing is not part of its protocol.
“We do not know who is showing up and who isn’t,” he said. “We don’t know those kids … We don’t follow up to ensure they go to the hearing.””
Republican Senator Rob Portman told PBS’ Frontline,
“We’ve got these kids. They’re here. They’re living on our soil. And for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat-out wrong. I don’t care what you think about immigration policy, it’s wrong.”
Portman is right.