The Biden administration has lost contact with thousands of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children who have been released from federal custody, according to a shocking report Wednesday.
Axios found that between January and the end of May, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families made 14,600 calls to check in on kids released from government-run shelters to sponsors inside the US. Of those calls, 4,890 (33.5 percent) were not answered by either the child or their sponsor.
The website also found that the proportion of unanswered calls grew from 26 percent in January to 37 percent in May — and that the calls were not made as often as they should have been.
HHS policy requires a care provider place a follow-up call with a child and their sponsor 30 days after their release from custody. However, Axios reported that HHS had discharged 32,000 minors between President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and May 31 — while making fewer than 15,000 follow-up calls.
According to the website of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the calls are made to “determine whether the child is still residing with the sponsor, is enrolled in or attending school, is aware of upcoming court dates, and is safe.”
“While we make every effort to voluntarily check on children after we unite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-unification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” an HHS spokesman told Axios.
In the first five months of this year, more than 65,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended while attempting to cross the US-Mexico border, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Unlike single adults and some family units, the vast majority of unaccompanied children are not subject to deportation once apprehended, but are placed in the short-term custody of HHS, which is responsible for arranging long-term shelter for them until their case is heard in court. If no sponsors come forward, the department can place them in shelters, group homes or foster care.
Lawmakers from both parties have warned the Biden administration that its relaxed immigration policy is encouraging vulnerable people, including children — to make the dangerous trek to the border via Central America, where they may be victimized by drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals.
Last month, Bloomberg reported that the government is investigating whether unaccompanied teenagers were released to labor traffickers who sent them to work in food processing plants in Alabama and Oregon.
The number of attempts to enter the US illegally reached a 21-year high in July, when authorities made 212,672 apprehensions, the most in a single month since March of 2000, when 220,063 stops were reported.
In total, CBP has stopped more than 1.1 million illegal crossing attempts in the first seven months of this year.
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