'Serious Disregard For These Children’s Welfare': Biden Admin Policies Could Place Migrant Kids in Homes With Sex Offenders

Senate report alleges lack of safeguards for migrant children under Biden admin

Migrant Border Crossings At The Southern Border Continue As Judge's Title 42 Ruling Looms
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December 19, 2022

The Biden administration’s attempts to implement a more humane immigration policy are leading it to hand migrant children over to American adults who haven’t submitted to background checks, according to a Senate report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. That has made those kids vulnerable to everything from being placed in the custody of legal guardians who have a history of child neglect to living in homes with registered sex offenders.

The report, from Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Republican members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, paints a devastating picture of how the Biden administration has mismanaged the southern border, which has seen more than 2.5 million crossings since he took office. Biden’s attempt to strike a contrast on immigration with his predecessor may have backfired, putting in danger thousands of minors who have now lost contact with federal authorities, according to the report.

In an effort to reverse Trump administration policies that President Joe Biden characterized on the campaign trail as cruel and inhumane, many unaccompanied alien children who come into the custody of American officials are now handed over to adults in the United States without any vetting, the report says. Those background checks would verify, among other things, that alien children are not given to guardians who are on the sex offender registry.

Few executive actions under former president Donald Trump drew more ire from the media and left-wing activists than his "family separation policy." That policy, which ordered law enforcement to separate children from illegal alien parents apprehended at the southern border was meant to deter future illegal border crossings. But Biden, who, according to the Senate report, is overseeing an immigration system that is reducing "protections for [unaccompanied alien] children against abuse and trafficking," has avoided the same level of scrutiny from the press and Democrats.

Federal agencies responsible for releasing children into the custody of a legal guardian in the United States, such as HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told Senate Republicans that they do not believe they are responsible for "protecting unaccompanied alien children from abuse and trafficking after placement with a sponsor." That shocking admission, the report states, is a "plain" contradiction of the agencies’ statutory obligations.

"[Health and Human Services has refused] to implement systems designed to ensure the safe release of children and accept legal responsibility for unaccompanied alien children after they are paired with a sponsor, as required by law," the report states.

Reversing his predecessor’s hawkish immigration policies has been a priority for Biden from the start. Some of his first actions as president targeted the southern border, such as a February 2021 executive order that required "agencies to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have set up barriers to our legal immigration system." That move, followed by others announced the next month, were, Biden said, part of a strategy to create a "fair, safe, and orderly immigration system."

The practice of waiving background checks for adults who take in alien children began shortly thereafter as the Biden administration prioritized the identification of adult caregivers in order to avoid keeping children in holding facilities or returning them to their home countries.

It also meant that federal authorities often knew very little about the people taking in alien children. HHS released nearly 73,000 unaccompanied alien children to sponsors in the 2021 fiscal year but completed fewer than 6,500 checks with state child abuse and neglect registries, the report says. If a potential sponsor refuses a background check, federal guidelines under the Biden administration dictate that authorities may still release a child to that individual.

"Caring for unaccompanied alien children, children at significant risk of labor and sex trafficking and abuse, should be one of the top priorities of the United States government," the report states. "Yet, this investigation reveals actions by the Biden administration that show the opposite—serious disregard for these children’s welfare."

Although a record number of unaccompanied alien minors crossed the border in 2021, the federal government completed fewer child abuse and neglect checks than in the 2019 fiscal year, federal data show. Nor does HHS "adequately verify a sponsor’s identity and relationship with a child," by offering little guidance to case managers who are in charge of placing children in a domestic household, according to the report.

The Senate report includes a list of recommendations that would better protect migrant alien children, including the bipartisan Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act. That law, Senate Republicans argue, would require HHS to create more sophisticated tracking and care systems for unaccompanied minor children. HHS would also be obligated to end the custody agreement between a sponsor and child if there is proof of abuse or neglect.

"Without acknowledging its responsibility, correcting these issues, and better vetting potential sponsors, the Biden administration cannot ensure the safety of unaccompanied alien children," the report states.