FIRST ON FOX: Conservative legal watchdog America First Legal (AFL) is pushing the Biden administration for responses to reports that unaccompanied minors have been released from federal custody in the hands of traffickers.
Following the southern border crisis, the AFL demanded responses through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Administration for Children and Families – under the Department of Health and Social Services (HHS) – to better understand how and if the administration adequately protects unaccompanied minors after their release in the United States
HHS DOCUMENTS REVEAL INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE OF UNACCOMPANIED MIGRANT CHILDREN
In August, a Bloomberg Law report showed that federal law enforcement officials were investigating situations in which minors were suspected of being exploited under labor trafficking programs.
The director of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU) sent an email in July to officials at four other agencies warning of “indicators of exploitation by the potential labor and / or labor trafficking of unaccompanied minors in Alabama “and” several other jurisdictions “. . “
“Some of these situations appear to involve dozens of unaccompanied minors all handed over to the same sponsor and then exploited for work in poultry processing or similar industries without access to education,” Hilary Axam said, according to the outlet. .
Experts are concerned that decades-old labor trafficking practices have become an increasingly urgent problem as the number of unaccompanied minors entering the United States illegally has skyrocketed.
“We are seeing the biggest wave of minors being trafficked and smuggled,” AFL president and former Trump adviser Stephen Miller told Fox News. “And again, no sign of slowing down, even a little bit.”
“There has never been anything like the kind of blow to illegal minors that we are seeing now,” he added. “The consequences for society are far-reaching. It is a disaster for all available indicators.”
In 2021 alone, more than 132,000 unaccompanied minors were encountered by border officials, a figure that reflects nearly four times the number of minors encountered in 2020 and an increase of almost 40% from the previous record. from 2019.
The HHS has struggled to strike a balance in finding safe housing for children and ensuring they don’t stay in federal custody too long, an issue dating back to the Obama administration when arrivals of unaccompanied minors took off. first increased.
Ten years ago, the United States reported 6,000 unaccompanied child arrivals and 68,000 minors were encountered at the border in 2014.
Miller said the reason illegal border crossings by unaccompanied minors have increased is because of a provision the Biden administration removed from Title 42.
“Unaccompanied minors have been categorically exempted from Title 42,” Miller explained.
Under controversial policy first established by the Trump administration, federal officials are able to bypass regular immigration procedures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, meaning more people will be expelled if they enter the country illegally.
“And so the message to every teenager in the world… the message to every adult in the world who wants to send their minor here illegally: the border is completely open for them,” Miller said. “It’s very dangerous for minors; it’s very dangerous for America, and it’s completely against our national sovereignty.”
THE AMERICAN RECEPTION CUSTODY SYSTEM ALREADY EXTENDED TO THE MAX, UNACCOMPANIED MINORS CONTINUE TO CROSS THE SOUTH BORDER
Hot spots for trafficking in child labor have been identified in agriculture-rich places like Enterprise, Alabama and Woodburn, Oregon, which are now under investigation by federal officials, Bloomberg first reported.
The locations were reportedly identified as suspect after discovering that HHS had released dozens of children in the area, in some cases to the same sponsor.
A zip code in Enterprise, which has been identified as having a number of chicken slaughterhouses, has been banned from receiving other minors in federal custody unless a biological parent receives the child.
A similar practice was reportedly adopted in Woodburn, an area surrounded by large agricultural fields.
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The AFL has asked the administration to provide all documents relating to “post-release recordings” for minors received since January 20, 2021. Fox News was unable to immediately contact HHS for comment.
The group further highlighted a concern about children placed with undocumented adult sponsors in the United States.
“In most cases, UAC sponsors do not have legal status themselves – and it is often the same people who paid for UAC to be illegally brought to the United States,” wrote AFL in a FOIA request viewed by Fox News. “The HHS ‘placement of these UACs with these sponsors simply completes the last stage of a contraband cycle by substituting the United States for the smuggling organizations.”
The group argued that the lack of checks and balances on these people compounded the humanitarian crisis and demanded that the HHS provide all information on children who have been placed with undocumented adults and any missed appearances afterwards.