A press release today by Senator Grassley on the hearing yesterday revealed the administration is less prepared then thought on the issue of illegal unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The GAO report showed that over 68,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection agents in 2014, as of January 31, 2016, another 20,455 illegal unaccompanied minors were apprehended. The hearing brought to light how the Department of Health and Human Services cut corners and were unable to determine if a sponsor was already sponsoring one or more minors or that some parents were being coerced into endorsing a sponsor. It also noted that required documents were missing from case files, that the Department allowed shortcuts and excepted copies of birth certificates and did not care about taking fingerprints from the sponsors.
The hearing included the findings of an investigation by Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which had issued a report last month that laid out numerous problems with the Obama Administration’s care and monitoring of minors in its custody. Problems like the placement of several minors in the care of human traffickers and how some sponsors were pawning off their illegal unaccompanied minor to people who abused them or forced them into sex trafficking. Senator Grassley stated during the hearing that the Executive Office of Immigration Review found that no agency wanted to take responsibility for children once they are placed with a sponsor, and that the calls that were made to check sponsors and minors, after the required 30 day wait period, were met with wrong numbers or no answers.
This is one reason over 40 percent of the unaccompanied minors did not show up for immigration hearings and with no follow-up many of them are nowhere to to found. Grassley pointed out that the Obama Administration has no enforcement priorities leaving the agencies in charge to do as the want and 2016 looks no better as there is still no policy of accountability. Even though he himself along with Senators Hatch, Coburn and Johnson have all wrote numerous letters to the involved agencies, as well as to the Obama Administration itself, about these inadequacies and requesting additional information on issues that raised significant safety concerns; many that are still unanswered. As Grassley stated at the hearing; the administration needs to stop shirking its responsibility and monitor these individuals after placement. They need a plan, they need to learn from their mistakes, they need to ensure that the minors are quickly and safely returned to their home country, and they need to be held accountable.