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Tipsheet

Crickets: Dems, Media Uninterested in NYT Scoop on Biden Admin Failing Exploited Migrant Children

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We covered these developments last week, both in this post and on the radio.  To their credit, the New York Times had revisited a February scoop to further puncture some of the Biden administration's excuses about one damaging component of the border crisis.  A few months ago -- to little fanfare -- the Times reported that the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at our Southern border had exploded in 2022, triple the number that had done so five years prior, under the Trump administration.  Despite their stated policy of keeping track of these children, Biden's HHS department "lost immediate contact with a third of migrant children," per the article.  That's more than 85,000 unaccounted-for kids in 2022 alone.  And a big reason why this happened, the Times explained, was that Team Biden ordered the cutting of corners in the vetting of adult sponsors and processing of children: "as more and more children have arrived, the Biden White House has ramped up demands on staffers to move the children quickly out of shelters and release them to adults. Caseworkers say they rush through vetting sponsors."  

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They were worried about the "kids in cages" optics over which Democrats had (hypocritically) attacked the previous administration, and they didn't want to have to respond to pictures or videos of overflowing detainment centers.  So they decided to cut children loose as quickly as possible.  Stopping the policy incentives that have led to this huge influx of kids being sent on these treacherous, abuse-filled, cartel-enriching journeys was not of interest to the Biden administration. Nor was securing the border.  The wellbeing of the minors who've arrived in our country was also, evidently, an afterthought.  The priority was to keep the gears churning fast enough so that the facilities didn't look too full for the cameras.  So countless children were shoveled out into the American interior to shoddily-vetted adult "sponsors," many of whom have ended up off the administration's radar screen and stuck in exploitive situations.  Setting aside the horrors of sex trafficking, which is an extremely serious problem connected to the border crisis, there's a child labor emergency that's playing out.  We learned more about it in the Times' follow-up investigation published last week:

Over the past two years, more than 250,000 migrant children have come alone to the United States. Thousands of children have ended up in punishing jobs across the country — working overnight in slaughterhouses, replacing roofs, operating machinery in factories — all in violation of child labor laws, a recent Times investigation showed. After the article’s publication in February, the White House announced policy changes and a crackdown on companies that hire children. But all along, there were signs of the explosive growth of this labor force and warnings that the Biden administration ignored or missed, The Times has found. Again and again, veteran government staffers and outside contractors told the Health and Human Services Department, including in reports that reached Secretary Xavier Becerra, that children appeared to be at risk. The Labor Department put out news releases noting an increase in child labor. Senior White House aides were shown evidence of exploitation, such as clusters of migrant children who had been found working with industrial equipment or caustic chemicals. As the administration scrambled to clear shelters that were strained beyond capacity, children were released with little support to sponsors who expected them to take on grueling, dangerous jobs...In interviews with The Times, officials expressed concern for migrant children but shifted blame for failing to protect them...the White House declined to comment on why the administration did not previously react to repeated signs that migrant children were being widely exploited.

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Republican lawmakers addressed these revelations in some depth at last week's Capitol Hill hearings featuring the incompetent and dishonest DHS Secretary, but that's been just about it, in terms of the impact of this pair of devastating stories -- even though this month's reporting includes details of alleged retaliation against a whistleblower:

Jallyn Sualog was the most senior career member of the H.H.S. division responsible for unaccompanied migrant children when Mr. Biden took office. She had helped build the program after the passage of the 2008 law and, as a lifelong Democrat, had celebrated Mr. Biden’s win. But soon, she said, she began to hear reports that children were being released to adults who had lied about their identities, or who planned to exploit them. She warned her bosses in a 2021 email, “If nothing continues to be done, there will be a catastrophic event.” She continued to email about situations she described as “critical” and “putting children at risk.” Concerned that no one was listening, Ms. Sualog filed a complaint in the fall of 2021 with the H.H.S. Office of Inspector General, the agency’s internal watchdog, and requested whistle-blower protection. She also took the unusual step of speaking with congressional staffers about her worries.

“I feel like short of protesting in the streets, I did everything I could to warn them,” Ms. Sualog said of the administration. “They just didn’t want to hear it.” In late 2021, she was moved out of her position. She filed a complaint with the federal office responsible for enforcing whistle-blower protection rules, arguing that she had been illegally retaliated against. Last fall, the Office of the Inspector General released a report that discussed Ms. Sualog’s case and several demotions and dismissals at the agency that “may have risen to the level of whistle-blower chilling.” Ms. Sualog settled with the agency, which agreed to pay her legal fees, and resigned last month. An H.H.S. spokeswoman declined to comment on Ms. Sualog’s complaint but said the agency does not retaliate against whistle-blowers.
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To recap, a committed Democrat and a woman of color at HHS sounded the alarm about the child exploitation crisis she was witnessing, which was being driven by the administration's border policies. She warned about what was happening repeatedly. Then she was thrown out of her position, and an independent Inspector General review of the situation concluded that it smelled a lot like retaliation against whistleblowers. National Review's Jim Geraghty notes that this Times bombshell seemed to have all the major components of a bruising scandal for the Biden administration -- and yet:

Early last week, the New York Times unveiled a bombshell scoop, but it was the wrong kind of bombshell to become the kind of multi-day story that overtakes the news cycle. You see, apparently it just isn’t that big of a deal if migrant children are being widely exploited — working in slaughterhouses and factories in violation of child-labor laws — if the problem can all be traced back to the Biden administration’s policy decisions. It’s strange how a story with so many ingredients of hot-button news — illegal immigration, kids, exploitative employers, abuse, retribution against whistleblowers — can get so little reaction when the upshot is that a Democratic president and his team screwed up...The reaction to this story, or lack of a reaction, does illustrate the left-of-center groupthink at work in most of the mainstream media...Dreier’s scoop was effectively a one-day story; the widespread exploitation of teenagers who crossed the border illegally, entered U.S. government custody, and who were released to people who exploited them as cheap labor simply wasn’t important enough to turn into a cause that took over the news cycle. The rest of the political world, which had made the treatment of migrant families at the border a crusade during the Trump administration, largely yawned.

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You know, I'm beginning to suspect that all the hyperventilating about family separations, "kids in cages," and humanitarian crisis-level "human rights abuses," to which we were endlessly treated under a Republican administration wasn't terribly genuine.  It turns out that much of that caterwauling was, as is so often the case, political and performative. I'll leave you with the sorts of images we aren't likely to see any time soon -- partially because these disgraces are happening on Democrats' watch, so it doesn't really matter (sorry, kiddos), and partially because figures like AOC and Harris would need to stage their "concern" pageants outside factories, slaughterhouses and underground brothels in order to signal any worries about the results of this administration's "compassionate" immigration policies vis-a-vis children:

Oh look, Pete was also there, helpfully mic'd up for the cameras and nodding gravely as Harris intoned about the Trump administration's supposed "human rights abuse being committed by the United States government."  She added, "not on our watch."  The administration in which they both serve just threw a whistleblower out of her job for raising red flags about migrant kids being stuffed into different kids of cages, tens of thousands of whom have fallen through the cracks and off the government's radar.  We've seen no theatrical rending of garments from these frauds, have we?

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