There is apparently no stopping the numbers of illegal immigrant minors entering the United States. According to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the number is expected this year to break previous records. So far during fiscal year 2016, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), their numbers are expected to beat the surge of 2014 that strained the resources of the federal Department of Homeland Security, as well as the states receiving the thousands of minors.
During a hearing today in the Senate, committee members heard that the number of children being deported is actually expected to decline. On Feb. 22, the Obama administration admitted that it does not know of the location of dozens of immigrant kids who are being released from custody to individuals all over the country who may or may have not been subjected to background investigations.
“If these trends continue, we can expect to see an even greater number of minors crossing the border this year than in 2014,” Sen. Grassley said. “No one is following up on these individuals when they skip their immigration hearings, unless they are receiving post-release services. They are also not enforcement priorities for this administration. This means a lot of these minors are nowhere to be found.”
An official for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE) said that trials for these illegal immigrants may take years. “It’s no wonder children are being mistreated or simply falling off of the grid once turned over to sponsors,” Sen. Grassley said. “Your agency wants to wipe its hands clean after a child is placed with a sponsor.”
Of the 127,000+ minors apprehended on the border, only 4,680 have been deported since 2014. rehended on the border during the past two-and-a-half years. Third-party contractors have been called upon by the federal government to conduct background checks and interviews with the minors in question. Many have little government supervision.
“We’re having an increase … this year, twice as many unaccompanied minors are entering the country as last year because there’s no effective response to this,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) said. “The president’s answer is to assume basically that every child is a victim of an asylum type danger and entitled to enter the U.S.”
Sen. Sessions asked Thomas Homan of ICE if deporting more individuals would have an impact on border crossings. Homan answered, “They’re difficult to find.” Homan said that more deportations should serve as deterrent to further entries. “They should be, if caught, they should be treated fairly and sent home,” Sen. Sessions said. “That’s what needs to be done. That’s what the law says. That’s what the American people want. But we have an administration that’s undermining every day the ability of that system to work.”
Homan said that it is difficult to compel illegal aliens to appear before immigration judges for adjudication on deportation.
Investigations by the Senate and another by the federal Government Accountability Office have verified that ICE does not have an effective means of tracking individuals once they enter the U.S. “It’s a tragedy,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. He and other senators called on the GAO to review Obama’s response to the crisis. “People have said the crisis is over, but it only doesn’t seem like a crisis because we have gotten more efficient at apprehending, processing, and dispersing the children—and then ignoring them,” Johnson told The Daily Signal.
Rather than returning them to their home countries, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, provides shelter for unaccompanied children and finds sponsors to care for them while they await hearings in immigration courts. The Office of Refugee Resettlement had been used to caring for a steady number of children for a number of years. From fiscal years 2003 through 2011, the agency cared for less than 10,000 unaccompanied children per year.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a report on Jan. 28 that shows that Office of Refugee Resettlement fails to ascertain the putative relationship between unaccompanied children and adult sponsors. In addition, the agency no longer requires original copies of birth certificates to prove most sponsors’ identities. Children have been released to sponsors who subjected them to sexual abuse, labor trafficking and neglect.
The GAO report found problems early on in the process. It found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement goes for years without sending officials to visit and monitor some of the nonprofit shelters for unaccompanied minors before they are released to sponsors. The GAO found, for example, that one facility failed to medicate children properly, which, in one instance, led to accidental overdoses of medicine. Records are often incomplete, thus making it difficult to know whether the unaccompanied minors had received education and proper medical care.