HHS disputes losing track of unaccompanied minors: 'There are no lost children'

A Department of Health and Human Services official told senators on Thursday the agency doesn't lose track o...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 4:38 AM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 4:38 AM

A Department of Health and Human Services official told senators on Thursday the agency doesn't lose track of unaccompanied minors but rather, it's hard to locate them after they leave their custody.

"There are no lost children. There are some families that don't take our call, that's a big difference," Jonathan White, the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS, told senators during a hearing Thursday.

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

Politics

US Congress

US Department of Health and Human Services

US federal departments and agencies

US Senate

Government bodies and offices

US federal government

White House

US Department of Homeland Security

Children

Demographic groups

Families and children

Family members and relatives

Population and demographics

Society

He continued: "Many individuals come out of the shadows to take their child from us and some of them return to the shadows because they are individuals who are living undocumented in the United States in most cases. And they believe they have cause to fear us."

The comments from the official comes after a report revealed the Department of Health and Human Services is not taking responsibility for unaccompanied minors once they're placed with sponsors.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, slammed White for his comments, saying he was "simply inaccurate."

"There are lost children, clearly," Portman said during the hearing. "I can't believe that you would think that because you don't know where 1,500 (children) were under a three month period between October and December of last year. You do know that a couple dozen of these kids actually ran away from their sponsors, that there are no lost children."

The report found that Health and Human Services had failed to establish rules to protect unaccompanied minors and provides recommendations for improving the system to ensure these children are properly cared for and protected.

For example, from October to December 2017, out of 7,635 attempted phone calls to find unaccompanied minors placed with sponsors, HHS found 28 "had run away" and couldn't determine the whereabouts of 1.475 unaccompanied minors.

The report also found the Department of Justice currently has 355 immigration judges handling all the immigration court cases, but has the authority to hire 129 more judges. The current median wait time for an unaccompanied minor is 480 days.

The report notes that while HHS and the Department of Homeland Security have taken steps to improve the care of unaccompanied minors, major issues exist that leave the children at risk for trafficking and abuse.

The report also found that lot of the problems started in the Obama administration and continued into the Trump administration.

The departments sent a joint statement ahead of Thursday's hearing slamming the report, saying it "demonstrates fundamental misunderstandings of law and policy related to the safety and care" of unaccompanied minors.

"The Departments alerted PSI to errors in today's report prior to its issuance -- some of which were considered and resulted in minor modifications to the report -- but PSI chose to ignore many operational realities and basic legal authorities (or lack thereof) including the lack of HHS authority to care for UACs after release to a suitable vetted sponsor."

The statement continued: "DOJ, DHS, and HHS will continue to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress to protect our nation, its borders, and its citizens. We will not be able to fix these long standing problems until Congress acts to address the fundamental and systemic issues that incentivize illegal activity along our nation's border."

The issues affecting minors separated during the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy is not detailed in the report, but investigators note the crisis put strain on the unaccompanied minor program.

"This administration continues to make an already challenging reality for migrant children even more difficult and more dangerous," the subcommittee's top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, said in a statement. "While the recommendations in this report do not solve all of the issues that arise for unaccompanied minors arriving at our southern border, they identify critical steps needed to protect an already vulnerable population."

This story has been updated.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 76°
Florence
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Fayetteville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 79°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14986

Reported Deaths: 566
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2033111
Jefferson163091
Montgomery127433
Marshall6509
Tuscaloosa55812
Lee51032
Franklin4676
Shelby44719
Tallapoosa40063
Butler35912
Chambers33724
Madison3024
Baldwin2749
Elmore2707
Walker2391
Etowah23811
DeKalb2263
Dallas2063
Coffee2061
Lowndes19310
Sumter1936
Morgan1761
Houston1724
Autauga1683
Calhoun1463
Pike1450
Choctaw1444
Colbert1422
Marengo1416
Russell1370
Lauderdale1352
Bullock1333
Hale1324
Randolph1247
Wilcox1187
Marion11410
Barbour1131
Clarke1092
St. Clair1041
Pickens934
Greene914
Talladega912
Chilton871
Dale850
Cullman780
Limestone770
Jackson712
Winston670
Covington671
Washington655
Henry642
Macon622
Crenshaw602
Bibb591
Blount491
Lawrence430
Escambia433
Perry350
Geneva350
Coosa341
Monroe332
Cherokee332
Conecuh281
Clay272
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 20535

Reported Deaths: 338
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson463258
Shelby445194
Trousdale13924
Rutherford102922
Sumner82745
Bledsoe6081
Hamilton60114
Williamson52210
Tipton4273
Lake4100
Robertson3891
Putnam3805
Wilson3638
Out of TN3394
Knox3365
Bedford2694
Montgomery2483
Rhea1970
Hardeman1880
Madison1732
Loudon1360
McMinn13514
Cheatham1100
Cumberland1091
Fayette1072
Dickson1040
Macon1013
Bradley981
Blount823
Maury790
Unassigned750
Washington730
Sevier722
Coffee660
Wayne630
Sullivan612
Gibson601
Monroe562
Lauderdale561
Hickman530
Dyer480
Greene472
Franklin461
Anderson391
Marion361
DeKalb340
Grundy321
Hawkins312
Smith301
Marshall291
Haywood292
Henry290
Carroll271
Jefferson270
White270
Weakley260
Hamblen262
Meigs250
Lincoln250
Lawrence240
Obion241
Warren210
Overton210
Cocke200
Carter191
Morgan170
Cannon170
Campbell171
Jackson170
Crockett161
Roane150
Johnson150
Polk140
Henderson130
Perry130
Humphreys131
McNairy120
Giles120
Chester120
Sequatchie110
Scott110
Hardin112
Fentress110
Stewart90
Claiborne80
Houston70
Benton71
Clay60
Grainger60
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Moore30
Unicoi30
Pickett30
Lewis30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events