Two new reports shed light on the sometimes murky world of unaccompanied alien minors who cross into the United States illegally.
On April 19, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of Congress, released "Unaccompanied Children: HHS [Health and Human Services Department] Should Improve Monitoring and Information Sharing Policies to Enhance Child Advocate Program Effectiveness". The audit report was compiled over the course of 12 months, between April 2015 and April 2016.
The auditors found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the arm of HHS that is responsible for "resettlement" of unaccompanied minors, is failing in its job of adequate monitoring and oversight of the contract agencies to which it has farmed out the responsibility for child advocacy after-care services. Consequently, ORR cannot vouchsafe that the advocacy services are either adequate or appropriate.
Conversely, however, they also found that ORR is failing to provide contractors, as well as "stakeholders" in the process such as state courts (which have responsibilities for juveniles made wards of the court), and even immigration courts, with important "incident" data regarding the minors. This is no minor lapse. GAO found that the courts and other authorities rely on information provided by the child advocates 70 percent of the time and yet the advocates are obliged to make recommendations and observations without complete data. Furthermore the "incidents" not being revealed can constitute major safety and crime risks, as has been proven several times; examples include Edwin (aka "Eswin") Mejia, who killed a young woman while drag racing under the influence (see here and here) and the case of juveniles charged with the execution-style murder of a Massachusetts man.
In typical understatement, the report states: "ORR officials told GAO that they are considering providing the contractor with copies of all significant incident reports and other key information; but as of April 6, 2016, the policy had not changed." In other words, for the duration of the 12 months that GAO auditors conducted their work, ORR pondered its navel, but didn't actually do anything about changing this sorry state of affairs. One suspects that ORR would not even have cooperated with GAO if it had not been obliged by the plain language of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which directed GAO to undertake its study. It seems pretty clear that, like other organs of the executive branch under this administration, ORR would much rather drop the cone of silence over its operations than reveal them to the watching and listening public.
On the same day the GAO report was released, the Associated Press published an article based on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data obtained from HHS. (One surmises that was a tooth-pulling exercise, if ever there was one; it helps to be one of the 900-pound gorillas in the media business.) The article, "AP Exclusive: Immigrant kids sent to adults lacking status", reported that "80 percent of the 71,000 mostly Central American children placed between February 2014 and September 2015 were sent to sponsors who were not here legally." (Emphasis added.) Thanks to this story, we now know that:
- At least 71,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in a roughly 18-month period — certainly the figure is significantly higher, since the statistics only include those who were "placed". Keep in mind, also, that this figure excludes children who arrived with adults, as well as the adults themselves.
- The government is routinely handing these children over to adults (parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings, such as in Mejia's case) who are illegal aliens. It's well to remember here that the government's methods for verifying relationships have been so slipshod that some minors have been victimized by being passed into the hands of unscrupulous labor contractors claiming to be related.
That these minors are handed over to illegal alien adults is reprehensible. This is because it was the adults who often initiated their northward trek to begin with, by paying smugglers the fee to bring the children — exposing them along the way to death by heat, hypothermia, thirst, or violence; as well as physical and sexual abuse at the hands of traffickers.
The federal government, acting as the middleman, is complicit in this smuggling of human beings even as it claims to be clamping down on smuggling and trafficking gangs, which are often also involved in the seamy business of cross-border narcotics smuggling (see here and here).
As observed by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen (who happens to be the same judge who issued the injunction against the White House "executive action" now before the Supreme Court):
This Court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States. ... Yet instead of arresting Salmeron Santos [mother of the child] for instigating the conspiracy to violate our border security laws, the DHS actually delivered the child to her — thus successfully completing the mission of the criminal conspiracy. It did not arrest her. It did not prosecute her. It did not even initiate deportation proceedings for her. This DHS policy is a dangerous course of action.
If the federal government were really interested in halting the as-yet-unabated flow of Central Americans, adult or minor, across our southern border, it would initiate expedited removal proceedings against them, cease its mistaken "resettlement" efforts and, where it is evident that parents or relatives have conspired to bring minors illegally across the border, 1) initiate deportation proceedings against them if also illegal; 2) charge them with the crime of alien smuggling; and 3) see them prosecuted in state court for child endangerment. Harsh? Perhaps. But certainly less harsh than subjecting tens of thousands of vulnerable minors to the hazards of the journey north.