Report: HHS gave immigrant children to human traffickers

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At least 19 immigrant children were inadvertently handed over to human traffickers by the U.S. government last year after it failed to conduct proper background checks, a Senate report released Thursday said.

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According to a report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations obtained first by The New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services had custody of six children who were later found in a human trafficking ring in Marion, Ohio, as well as 13 in other locations. Officials reportedly failed to do due diligence when securing guardians for unaccompanied minors during their immigration proceedings.

“It is intolerable that human trafficking — modern-day slavery — could occur in our own backyard. But what makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U.S. government  agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers,” Investigations Chairman Rob PortmanRob PortmanDems kill more ads in Ohio Senate rivals gear up for debates Funding bill includes million for opioid crisis MORE (R-Ohio) told the Times.

An additional 15 cases showed signs of trafficking, the report said, noting that it was unclear how many of the 90,000 children the department had placed in the past two years, amid an influx from Central America, could have fallen victim.

“Whatever your views on immigration policy, everyone can agree that the administration has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the migrant kids that have entered government custody until their immigration court date,” Portman said.

Health and Human Services responded that it has since taken steps to bolster its background check process, including correcting screenings.

“We are mindful of our responsibilities to these children and are continually looking for ways to strengthen our safeguards,” it said.