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Federal officials lose track of nearly 1,500 migrant children in US

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Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children last year after they were placed in the homes of adult sponsors, officials told the Senate on Thursday.

Limited budgets for tracking migrant children after they are placed in foster homes led to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) losing track of as many as 1,475 children who could not be accounted for after HHS officials attempted welfare checks, according to an Associated Press report of the testimony.

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Between October and December of last year, HHS officials completed welfare checks on 7,635 migrant children the agency says are living with adult sponsors in the U.S. Of those 7,635 children, 6,075 were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else.

The rest were completely unaccounted for, the agency said.

The AP reports that Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) has given HHS until Monday to deliver a time frame to Congress for improving the agency’s monitoring capabilities.

“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked,” said Portman. “This is all about accountability.”

Other senators at the subcommittee hearing blasted HHS officials for negligence.

“You are the worst foster parents in the world. You don’t even know where they are,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). “We are failing. I don’t think there is any doubt about it. And when we fail kids that makes me angry.”

“Given all that we learned in 2015 and 2016, it’s unacceptable that we can still be this bad at keeping track of these children,” added Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Officials also told senators in the hearing that while HHS is unable to locate all migrant children supposedly in the agency’s care, it does assist with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its deportation initiatives.

“DHS has worked closely with the Trump administration and members of Congress to address existing ‘loopholes’ that allow individuals to exploit our immigration laws,” said DHS undersecretary James McCament.

Tags deportations Health and Human Services Heidi Heitkamp Heidi Heitkamp HHS Homeland security Migrant children Rob Portman Rob Portman Senate Tom Carper Unaccompanied minors

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