Protect migrant children from trafficking
It’s appalling. According to a recent Washington Post report, President Obama’s administration has failed to protect thousands of Central American children coming to the United States to escape violence by “leaving them vulnerable to drug traffickers” and subject to “abuses at the hands of government-approved caretakers."1
The Washington Post’s report was based on an extremely disturbing report released by Sens. Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, detailing confirmed and suspected cases of trafficking.2 The report makes it clear that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the agency responsible for the children’s welfare – failed to take the necessary steps to ensure children were being placed with safe, responsible guardians.
This is unacceptable. Last year, HHS requested additional funds from Congress to ensure the safety of the unaccompanied minors here now, and the ones who will follow them. If Sens. Portman and McCaskill are concerned about the safety of these children they must lead the fight to make sure HHS has every resource it needs.
Tell Sens. Portman and McCaskill: Ensure that HHS has all the necessary resources to protect child refugees fleeing violence.
The Senate report found that before placing children with U.S. sponsors, the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement failed to do proper background checks of the adults who claimed the children, failed to notice when sponsors took custody of multiple unrelated children, and failed to visit the homes into which they were placing children.3 The stories outlined in the report demonstrate not only the profound negligence of HHS, but the degree to which people take advantage of that negligence to exploit and harm children:
A man in Ohio pretended to sponsor at least 10 unrelated teenage boys. Instead of caring for them and enrolling them in school, he forced them to sleep in the dirt under an RV and work 12-plus-hour days on his egg farm.
A man in central Florida forced his 14-year-old Honduran step-daughter to work in cantinas where she entertained the male patrons by dancing and having sex with them.
A man helped pay the way for a girl he had never met to come to the U.S. as a sort of mail-order bride. After collecting her from HHS, he forced her to have sex with him. This man was so confident in the inadequacy of HHS security protocols that he essentially used HHS as a drop-off location for sex-trafficking3.
In the past five years, 90,000 children have been placed with sponsors.3 We will never be able to know how many are now living in slavery. Violence in Central America is increasing and we are likely to see similar levels of unaccompanied minors seeking safety in the U.S. in 2016. If we don’t do something, this will keep happening.
We need Sens. Portman and McCaskill to step forward as champions for these children.
Tell them to ensure that HHS has all the necessary resources to protect child refugees fleeing violence.
We have an obligation as a country to do better for all of the children currently in U.S. custody, and for any child who will enter this country in the future. When the Senate released its shocking report, Sen. McCaskill said we need to “quit thinking about what’s on paper and start thinking about these children.”4 Sen. Portman said, “Whatever your views on immigration policy, everyone can agree that the administration has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the migrant kids that have entered government custody until their immigration court date.”5
If these senators are really committed to ensuring these children’s safety, it’s time for them to step up in Congress and make sure that HHS can do its job.
Thank you for standing for children.
1. Abbie VanSickle, “Obama administration placed children with human traffickers, report says,” The Washington Post, 1/28/2016.
2.“Adequacy of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Alien Children From Human Trafficking,” Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 1/28/2016.
3. Garance Burke, “AP INVESTIGATION: Feds' failures imperil migrant children,” AP News, 1/25/2016.
4. “McCaskill Investigation Takes Aim at Human Trafficking of Kids,” Office of Senator McCaskill, 1/28/2016.
5. Emmarie Huetteman, “U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says,” The New York Times, 1/28/2016.