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Undocumented and Unaccounted For: A Definitive Podcast Explainer About #WhereAreTheChildren

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Via NPR's Latino USA:

A report released last week about authorities losing track of almost 1,500 young immigrants has caused a lot of reactions. The young migrants are asylum seekers who arrived at the U.S. border without their parents, and were later released into the custody of guardians or sponsors. Recently, the government admitted that they haven’t been able to reach almost 1,500 of those sponsors, drawing concerns that the kids could be at risk. This disclosure has raised the question: what is the government’s role in making sure these kids are safe?

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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    The Last Word on 1,475 'Lost' Children

    They're not lost, and releasing more will simply encourage more to come
    By Andrew R. Arthur on June 1, 2018

    Morris "Mo" Udall, the late Democratic congressman from Arizona, once said at a committee hearing: "Everything has been said but not everyone has said it." The press has reached that point with respect to the 1,475 alien minors whom the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has purportedly lost track of.

    As the Washington Post has explained it:

    During a Senate committee hearing late last month, Steven Wagner, an official with HHS, testified that the federal agency had lost track of 1,475 children who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on their own (that is, unaccompanied by adults) and subsequently were placed with adult sponsors in the United States.

    Thereafter, the story took on a life of its own, particularly in the context of the administration's plan to prosecute most if not all aliens who have entered illegally under
    section 275 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). As an aside, because the federal government does not prosecute children under that provision, those children must be separated from their illegal-entrant parents during the parents' prosecution and incarceration.

    For example, an opinion piece in USA Today headlined "The feds lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children" that begins: "Before announcing a plan to separate more children from families, shouldn't there be a plan to adequately protect the children?" Thus, the purported "loss" of 1,475 alien minors became conflated with a Trump administration policy to enforce the immigration laws, always a hot topic for certain quarters of the mainstream media.

    As with most "bumper sticker" issues, the story is more nuanced than, for example, it was portrayed above in USA Today. (It took an entire week before the paper issued a correction.)

    Under section 462 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, HHS makes placement determinations for unaccompanied alien children. Under recent interpretations of a 1997 settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, there is a presumption that apprehended alien minors (even those arriving with parents) will be released to HHS within 20 days.

    And, as I explained in an opinion piece in USA Today:

    A Democrat-sponsored 2008 trafficking law divides unaccompanied children into two groups: Canadians and Mexicans (who can be returned quickly), and everybody else. The latter go to HHS, even if they haven't been trafficked, and aren't unaccompanied because they have family here. They must be "placed in the least restrictive setting", usually meaning release to family members.

    The alien minors who have been released by HHS are the ones that the department has purportedly "lost". But they have not actually been "lost", as HHS explained in a May 28, 2018, press release:

    "The assertion that unaccompanied alien children (UAC) are 'lost' is completely false. This is a classic example of the adage 'No good deed goes unpunished.' The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of [HHS], began voluntarily making calls in 2016 as a 30-day follow-up on the release of UAC to make sure that UAC and their sponsors did not require additional services. This additional step, which is not required and was not done previously, is now being used to confuse and spread misinformation.

    "These children are not 'lost'; their sponsors — who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them — simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made. While there are many possible reasons for this, in many cases sponsors cannot be reached because they themselves are illegal aliens and do not want to be reached by federal authorities. This is the core of this issue: In many cases, HHS has been put in the position of placing illegal aliens with the individuals who helped arrange for them to enter the country illegally. This makes the immediate crisis worse and creates a perverse incentive for further violation of federal immigration law." [Emphasis added.]

    You read that correctly: HHS places children with family members who arranged to have those children smuggled to the United States.

    Read more at:

    Submitted by Nolan Rappaport

    Updated 06-04-2018 at 11:16 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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