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Tipsheet

HHS Secretary Clueless on the Number of Unaccompanied Minors Lost During Border Crisis

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra was grilled by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) about the number of unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border the federal agency has lost track of amid the historic crisis.

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Blackburn said the New York Times reported HHS has lost track of up to 85,000 unaccompanied minors who had been placed by sponsors within the United States, supposedly to family members. More than 250,000 unaccompanied minors have shown up at the country's southern border without their parents during the Biden administration. 

"I'd like to know what you're doing to find the children and what you're doing to make certain that these children are not being trafficked?" Blackburn asked.

"Senator, first those statistics that you've mentioned...those are unfamiliar to me. I have no idea where those statistics come from, if they're based in reality or not. And we do everything we can to make sure any child, before we allow them to be released to a sponsor, that that sponsor has been vetted," Becerra replied.

According to the Times' report:

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While H.H.S. checks on all minors by calling them a month after they begin living with their sponsors, data obtained by The Times showed that over the last two years, the agency could not reach more than 85,000 children. Overall, the agency lost immediate contact with a third of migrant children.

An H.H.S. spokeswoman said the agency wanted to release children swiftly, for the sake of their well-being, but had not compromised safety. 'There are numerous places along the process to continually ensure that a placement is in the best interest of the child,' said the spokeswoman, Kamara Jones.

Because of the lack of accounablity of where the children end up, many have ended up in forced labor in dangerous conditions, such as meat plants and automobile supply shops.

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