The Trump administration has pushed back on reports that it “lost” 1,475 immigrant children, calling them “completely false.”
The kids, who arrived without guardians at the country’s southern border, were turned over to caretakers, who in late 2016 stopped responding to 30-day follow-up calls from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which was trying to make sure they did not need more government aid, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
The calls were a new, extra step for HHS, and when the number of those who did not answer them was revealed in an April Senate subcommittee hearing, media outlets reported the children as lost.
“This is a classic example of the adage ‘No good deed goes unpunished,'” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said. “These children are not ‘lost’; their sponsors—who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them—simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made.”
“The U.S. taxpayer can no longer be responsible for being a surrogate parent for every would-be illegal immigrant who crosses our border,” the department said.
Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) chastised federal agencies in April for not closing processing holes that allowed some unaccompanied minors to end up in the hands of human traffickers and abusers. The government must also make sure the kids show up for thecourt hearings that will decide whether they can stay in the country, Portman argued.
“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked,” the senator said.