USA Today Stands by ‘Lost’ Immigrant Kids Piece despite Backlash

Children traveling with a caravan of migrants from Central America stand on the beach near the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, April 29, 2018. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

USA Today is refusing to correct a false claim in a Friday op-ed about the Trump administration’s “losing” immigrant children that went viral.

The op-ed, which initially ran in the Arizona Republic, immediately sparked widespread media outrage and prompted the viral #WhereAreOurChildren Twitter campaign.

The piece said that “the federal government has lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children in its custody” (emphasis added).

The term “lost” is a mischaracterization of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official’s congressional testimony on the matter, but the contention that the children were ‘lost’ while in HHS custody is provably false.

During a Senate committee hearing last month, HHS official Steve Wagner testified that the agency placed follow-up calls with the sponsors of 7,635 migrant children last year. The agency couldn’t reach 1,475 of these sponsors, which didn’t mean that they were “lost,” as numerous publications, including the New York TimesVox, and the Washington Post have how pointed out.

Regardless, the children weren’t “lost” while in HHS custody — they had been placed with sponsors.

When asked if the paper would correct the article, an editor for USA Today referred the inquiry to the the Arizona Republic, the local affiliate that initially printed the op-ed. The Arizona Republic opinion editor and the columnist who wrote the article did not respond to requests for comment.

USA Today has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the country.

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