Migrant children with no whereabouts are once again putting the Donald Trump Administration in check. The United States has lost track of nearly 1,500 undocumented children who crossed the border this year and were referred to guardians, according to a Congressional investigation.
The legislators warned of the risk that the small ones end up with traffickers of people or be used as workers by people who pass themselves off as relatives. The case ditches the controversy unleashed in April when social services admitted not knowing the location of 1,475 children who had arrived completely alone in the country.
After the uncertain trip to the United States, minors who are detained can be by law a maximum of 72 hours in a police center. Once that deadline has passed, they are placed under the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They are then transferred to a shelter, guardian or relatives while their case enters the slow immigration judicial circuit.
Senate investigators revealed The New York Times on Tuesday that the department could not determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,488 of the 11,254 children who had been placed with foster families this year. Public officials follow children through phone calls to their guardians. 1,488 is the number they could not contact between April 1 and June 30.
The new number of children without a trace is practically traced to the revealed by the social services in April when they acknowledged not knowing where 1,475 children who had arrived alone in the United States were. The legislators did not specify if there are cases that appear in both computations. The argument that the authorities then made to ignore the whereabouts of the minors was that the tutors did not answer the telephone and promised to make improvements in the tracking system.
That controversial revelation came just as the scandal of the separation of the children of their parents on the US border was uncovered. After almost three months of criticism, Trump was forced in June to back down, but there are still about 500 children who have not been reunited with their parents, according to the latest data published on the last day of August.
The Department of Health and Social Services tried to put cold packs after the lawmakers’ publication. “As the congressmen were told repeatedly, these children are not ‘lost’, their guardians, who are usually their parents or family members, and who in all cases have investigated their criminal records and their ability to protect them.
They simply did not answer the phone or could not be reached when the call was made, “said spokesperson Caitlin Oakley, quoted by The New York Times. Since 2016, officials in this department have called foster families 30 days after referring a child in their care.
Lawmakers accompanied the alarming revelation with a bill drafted by Republicans and Democrats to improve the tracking system for minors. A key point is who responds for the children. The Department of Health and Social Services alleges that small children are not their responsibility once they leave federal shelters.
The legislative proposal obliges these officials to verify the background of the tutor’s something they in theory already do- and ensure that they provide adequate care to the children while they are in their custody, which includes making sure they appear to the audiences in the immigration court.
The bill also requires department officials to notify state governments before placing migrant children under the care of guardians. Another proposal is to increase the number of immigration court judges to help the Justice Department process cases more efficiently.
In total there are 350 judges in 60 US courts to address this issue. It is estimated that there are about 600,000 asylum applications pending resolution, a figure that accounts for the crisis that exists in the southern border and represents an increase of 1,700% in ten years, according to the Department of National Security.
Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal was one of the sponsors of the proposed bill: “Children who risk their lives to make a dangerous journey in search of asylum should not have to worry about being trafficked or being handed over to abusers or negligent adults in the United States, “he argued. A position similar to that of Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who said that future legislation “will help protect them from trafficking and abuse, as well as ensure that they appear for their immigration legal proceedings.”