Between the lines: The government is already investigating whether dozens of migrant children were released to labor traffickers, as Bloomberg Law recently reported. This happened in 2014 as well, when migrant teens were released to traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm.
The U.S. government has lost contact with thousands of migrant children released from its custody, according to data obtained by Axios through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Why it matters: Roughly one-in-three calls made to released migrant kids or their sponsors between January and May went unanswered, raising questions about the government’s ability to protect minors after they’re released to family members or others in the U.S.
- “This is very dismaying,” said Mark Greenberg, who oversaw the unaccompanied minors program during the Obama administration and was briefed on Axios’ findings. “If large numbers of children and sponsors aren’t being reached, that’s a very big gap in efforts to help them.”
- “While we make every effort to voluntarily check on children after we unite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-unification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” an HHS spokesperson told Axios, adding that many sponsors do not return phone calls or don’t want to be reached out to.
By the numbers: During the first five months of the year, care providers made 14,600 required calls to check in with migrant minors released from shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services. These minors typically were taken in by relatives or other vetted sponsors.
- In 4,890 of those instances, workers were unable to reach either the migrant or the sponsor.
- The percentage of unsuccessful calls grew, from 26% in January to 37% in May, the data provided to Axios showed.
The big picture: More than 65,000 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally during those months, and July set yet another all-time record for young border crossers. That suggests the problem of losing track of released children could be compounded in the months to come.