The Biden administration has effectively lost track of thousands of children who illegally immigrated to the U.S. and were released to sponsors in 2021, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Axios reported Wednesday that data from its FOIA request revealed that calls made to the children or their sponsors to check in on them went unanswered over 33 percent of the time between January and May — roughly corresponding to the time President Joe Biden has been in office.
The calls are required after unaccompanied minors who immigrate to the U.S. illegally are released from Department of Health and Human Services shelters.
“The purpose of the follow up call is to determine whether the child is still residing with the sponsor, is enrolled in or attending school, is aware of upcoming court dates, and is safe,” according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which handles policy regarding children who enter the U.S. unaccompanied by an adult.
“The care provider must document the outcome of the follow up call in the child’s case file, including if the care provider is unable to contact the sponsor or child after reasonable efforts have been exhausted.”
Reasonable efforts exhausted themselves quite frequently in 2021 — and it only got worse as the border crisis ramped up.
Out of 14,600 calls made to check in with minors or their sponsors, 4,890 went unanswered.
Furthermore, while the percentage of unsuccessful calls was only 26 percent in January, it grew to 37 percent by May — the last month Axios had data for. That’s when the outlet made the FOIA request after HHS refused to share information about whether it was conducting the calls.
“While we make every effort to voluntarily check on children after we unite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-unification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” an HHS spokesperson said.
The spokesperson noted that many sponsors don’t want to return phone calls or hear from HHS.
“This is very dismaying,” Mark Greenberg, who helmed the unaccompanied minors program during the Obama administration, told Axios.
“If large numbers of children and sponsors aren’t being reached, that’s a very big gap in efforts to help them.”
And it could get worse in the months to come.
“More than 65,000 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally during those months, and July set yet another all-time record for young border crossers. That suggests the problem of losing track of released children could be compounded in the months to come,” Axios reported.
Never mind that these calls aren’t happening as often as they should.
While 14,600 calls were made, 32,000 children and teens were released from HHS shelters from January to May.
Imagine the outcry if this had happened under former President Donald Trump’s administration. Actually, one doesn’t need to imagine: It did happen, and there was an outcry.
From The New York Times in September 2018: “In findings that lawmakers described as troubling, Senate investigators said the department could not determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,488 out of 11,254 children the agency had placed with sponsors in 2018, based on follow-up calls from April 1 to June 30.”
The CNN headline from the same month: “Trump administration admits it lost track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children.”
The Biden administration’s shortcomings haven’t been covered with the same alacrity, readers may have noticed. And the Biden administration has lost track of three times as many children as the Trump administration did.
The Biden administration needs to answer for this — but with an establishment media suddenly unwilling to demand accountability, the problem will simply compound itself.
Children are missing and the Biden administration has no idea where they are. In many cases, it’s not even checking up.
If the media won’t hold Biden’s feet to the fire, we need lawmakers who will.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.