WASHINGTON (WDTN) – Senator Rob Portman is leading an investigation into what federal agencies are doing to protect unaccompanied immigrant children from sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other forms of abuse.
Thursday, lawmakers grilled officials from several federal agencies and urged them to do more.
Senate investigators report the federal government has lost track of hundreds of immigrant children who entered the United States by themselves.
The Department of Health and Human services (HHS) initially cares for the children, and places them with an adult sponsor who is supposed to care for the kids while their cases go through the immigration courts.
“We’ve seen examples of children being placed with sponsors and being trafficked…and right now, about 50% of these children don’t show up to their immigration proceedings,” said Senator Rob Portman.
Both he and Senator Tom Carper are leading the investigation.
Their report found from October to December of last year, HHS lost track of 1500 children, but HHS disputes the findings.
HHS says it’s only required to check in with the adult sponsor within 30 days, but it can’t do anything, if that sponsor doesn’t answer the call.
Senators from both parties, including Heidi Heitkamp, say *someone* needs to take responsibility for the children.
“I’m frustrated. I think you hear the frustration here, because what we hear is ‘see no evil, we’re not going to pay attention to these kids afterwards and if they don’t show up — that’s just the way it is,’” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Several senators insist that HHS has the authority and the ability to keep track of the children.
Portman says he is working on legislation to help solve the problem.