The Trump administration has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, according to federal data.
Last month alone some 1,500 unaccompanied minors arrived on the southern border alone without their parents and were placed with sponsors who did not keep in touch with federal officials. And there is likely to be a lot more.
According to McClatchy DC Bureau, some 5,945 unaccompanied children are unaccounted for, with just 50 per cent of kids ending up with their parents as their sponsors.
About 40 percent on average end up with other family members in the United States, and about 10 percent or so end up with non-related individuals, maybe foster care, other volunteers who want to take the child in.
Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that the location of 1,475 unaccompanied children placed were sponsors couldn’t be determined.
Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families at HHS, told reporters that 14 percent of HHS calls to sponsors were not returned.
But to come up with the 1,475 cases, the administration reached out to only 7,635 children and their sponsors. It placed more than 42,497 unaccompanied children with sponsors in fiscal year 2017.
HHS told McClatchy it didn’t have the data of unaccounted children in a reportable format. But based on its own estimates that 14 percent didn’t return calls, some 5,945 unaccompanied children are likely unaccounted for.
The numbers would be even higher in fiscal year 2016, which included the end of President Barack Obama’s final term when the administration placed more than 52,000 children with sponsors.
In 2017, ORR released 93 percent of children to a sponsor. Of those, 49 percent were released to parents, 41 percent to close relatives, and 10 percent to other-than-close relatives or non-relatives.
So far in fiscal year 2018, the administration released 90 percent of children to individual sponsors and of those sponsors, 41 percent were parents, 47 percent were close relatives, and 11 percent were other-than-close relatives or non-relatives.
HHS officials say it’s not the administration’s legal responsibility to locate those children after they’re turned over to the custody of a family member or approved sponsor. And they add that it’s difficult to keep tabs on sponsors who often also are living in the country illegally, move often, and may not want to be located.
“You can imagine that many of those would not choose to speak to a federal official calling them on the phone,” Wagner told reporters. “But there’s no reason to believe that anything has happened to the kids. If you call a friend and they don’t answer the phone, you don’t assume that they’ve been kidnapped. So that characterization that the kids are missing is incorrect. And I just want to emphasize that they are not in our custody at the point at which that voluntary phone call is made.”
The reality is the Trump administration — and the Obama administration beforehand — has lost track and continues to lose track of thousands of unaccompanied minors while ORR does not appear to be trying to keep track of the children once they’re placed with sponsors.