Senate study: Trump hasn’t provided adequate support to detained migrant children

Senate study: Trump hasn’t provided adequate support to detained migrant children
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The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report Wednesday slamming the Trump administration’s handling of unaccompanied minors detained at the border.

The study says while the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services have “taken incremental steps” to improve their handling of these minors, there are still insufficient measures in place for guard their safety and ensure they appear in front of an immigration court.

“Most significantly, no agency claims any legal responsibility for the children’s well-being once HHS places them with sponsors…and no agency makes any effort to ensure UACs placed with sponsors appear at their immigration court proceedings," it stated, referring to unaccompanied alien children.

The report said that "major deficiencies persist that leave the children at significant risk for trafficking and abuse and undermine our immigration system.”

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (R-Ohio), the chairman of the committee, said the problems began during the Obama administration and continued in the Trump administration. 

"These federal agencies must do more to care for unaccompanied minors and ensure they aren’t trafficked or abused,” he said in a statement.

He also faulted the agencies for not doing more to improve programs after earlier direction from the permanent committee.

"This report details some small progress but also a glaring need for these agencies to take more responsibility for ensuring these children are safe and appear at their immigration court proceedings," he stated.

 

The subcommittee is holding a hearing Thursday to discuss the study’s findings.

The report covers all undocumented immigrant children in custody, not just those separated from their families under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

The subcommittee began investigating HHS’s sponsorship screening process in 2014, after a human trafficking ring was busted for luring children into crossing the border. Members of the ring then acted as sponsors so that the migrant children were released. They were then allegedly forced them to work for no pay under threat of violence.

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“This Administration continues to make an already challenging reality for migrant children even more difficult and more dangerous, the subcommittee's ranking member, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.), said in a statement.

"We have a moral responsibility to ensure that these migrant children fleeing their homes and extreme violence are safely and responsibly guided through the immigration process.”

The study also criticized the government's inability to locate certain minors when HHS attempted to follow up after placing them with sponsors or foster care.

“HHS’s follow-up telephone calls to UACs placed with sponsors from October to December 2017 demonstrate that HHS does not know with certainty where approximately 20 percent of UACs are three months after placement,” the report said. 

The report also says the Justice Department failed to hire an appropriate amount of additional immigration judges to assist in the workload, explaining that a huge influx of unaccompanied minors coming over the border since 2012 “strains the federal government’s limited resources and poses significant challenges for immigration enforcement.”

The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services put out a statement disagreeing with the study, saying "The report demonstrates fundamental misunderstandings of law and policy related to the safety and care of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).  The subcommittee does not focus on the real challenges with preventing children from being smuggled and trafficked in the first place, nor does the Subcommittee capture the extensive work done to protect UACs once they arrive here."

The statement went on to lay some of the blame at Congress' feet for "failing to enact any meaningful legislation to address pull factors and close loopholes in current law."

Immigration is set to be a hot-button issue heading into November’s midterm elections, and Democrats may seize on the report as a chance to criticize the administration.