Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Watchdog finds gaps in how federal government vetted the sponsors that migrant kids were sent to live with

By 37ci3 Feb15,2024

The comptroller of the Department of Health and Human Services found loopholes in how the agency vets the people it sent unaccompanied migrant children to live in the United States in 2021, according to a new report.

In an unprecedented increase, more than 300,000 unaccompanied children entered the United States on their own in the past three years and passed through HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement before being released to parents, relatives or non-family sponsors across the country. About two-thirds of the children are from Guatemala or Honduras. As part of its federal responsibility, ORR is responsible for screening potential sponsors before children are placed in their care.

Child advocates have expressed concern that unaccompanied children living in the United States with little or no language skills and few resources may be vulnerable to trafficking or child labor. According to the Department of Labor, the number of children working illegally has increased by 69% since 2018.

The HHS Inspector General released a random subset of 342 cases from the agency in March and April 2021, during which almost 17,000 migrant minors were placed to live with sponsors, and found that 16% of the cases involved one or more security checks. . not documented in the files, according to the new report.

In 19% of the cases the IG examined, there were no results in the files related to the results of various FBI fingerprinting and child abuse and neglect security checks.

In more than a third of cases, the ID cards provided to ORR to verify sponsor identities were difficult to read or had incomplete descriptions.

In cases where an unrelated sponsor offers to sponsor more than one child or has sponsored other children in the past, ORR must conduct a home investigation before placing any child with a sponsor. The IG found two instances where mandatory home learning did not occur.

In response to the report, the agency noted that auditors “selected a subset of cases that occurred among the historic number of unaccompanied children placed in ORR’s care during one of the most challenging periods in ORR’s history, the largest and fastest expansion of emergency services. and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

HHS spokesman Jeff Nesbit said the agency has improved its review process since 2021 and “implemented new and updated policies that not only align with the report’s recommendations but also go further, including dramatically expanding access to post-release services for emancipated children.” ORR, increased sponsor verification, and increased coordination between HHS and the Department of Labor to aggressively guard against abuse, he said.

HHS also agreed with all of the IG’s recommendations.

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By 37ci3

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