US Govt report reveals gaps in oversight of unaccompanied immigrant children’s sponsors

President of the United States - Joe Biden | Credits: Reuters
President of the United States - Joe Biden | Credits: Reuters

United States: A US agency which was responsible for taking care of unaccompanied immigrant children failed to provide proof that it had fully vetted the child’s US sponsors during a period of high illegal immigration transported across the border from Mexico in 2021, according to a report on Thursday released by the government.

Incomplete documentation raises concerns

In a report published by the US Health and Human Services inspector general in March and April 2021, the child cases files focused on sponsor background checks lacked 16 percent documentation by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. In 19 percent cases of children cases where the children were released to sponsors on a temporary basis until FBI or state checks were trucked, the case files were never updated with results, the watchdog discovered.

The watchdog report draws attention to an inadequacy of governmental oversight over sponsors without evidence that children are harmed, as reported by Reuters.

Potential risks for children

“We don’t have evidence that these gaps resulted in unsafe placements for the children in our sample, but they do create vulnerabilities which could increase children’s risk of being released to unsafe sponsors in the future,” said Haley Lubeck, the lead analyst for the report.

The increase in the number of illegal immigrants crossing the southwest border peaked in early 2021, soon after President Joe Biden took office, which has continued throughout his presidency as a trend. The HHS refugee office was challenged in the early period to redirect children from overcrowded processing centers to shelters and into the care of family sponsors or any other suitable sponsors.

According to HHS spokesperson Jeff Nesbit’s statement, the agency was currently struggling with “unprecedented influx” numbers of unaccompanied migrant children for the two-month period investigated by the Inspector General and had already taken measures to help manage most of the watchdog’s concerns.

Credits: White House

Measures to enhance sponsor vetting

HHS seeks to develop services for children after their release to sponsors, increase sponsor vetting, and tighten relationships with the US Department of Labor as an attempt to keep off abuse, Nesbit said, as the human resources department could locate problems with the sponsors easier with a new system of case management, according to HHS.

The recent Reuters news has reported on undocumented children being forced to work in poultry plants and for automotive suppliers after their federal custody has been terminated.

Immigration remains a contentious issue

Prior to the presidential elections on November 5, which are expected to match Biden against hardline immigration Republican former President Donald Trump, immigration has become a contentious issue. Republicans have used Biden’s immigration policies as fodder, pointing out that there is no follow-up for immigrant children, as reported by Reuters.

Unprecedented numbers under Biden administration

During Biden’s administration, the number of unaccompanied youngsters captured at the US-Mexico border exceeded 448,000, which is more than double the amount under Trump.