Two U.S. senators are forging ahead to investigate claims that immigrant children who enter the country without an adult are placed into the care of convicted criminals who somehow got into the sponsorship program.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) want more information from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services regarding protocols in placing children. They also want statistics regarding current sponsors’ criminal backgrounds.
The push came because an unnamed whistleblower said at least 3,400 of a sample of 29,000 adult U.S. sponsors are hardened criminals. The whistleblower, who claims to understand the vetting process for placement of children with sponsors, said some “have criminal histories that include domestic violence, homicide, child molestation, sexual assault and human trafficking.”
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Grassley and Cornyn issued a news release on the subject stating that the placement system is vulnerable to abuse. They cited a case earlier this year where human smugglers posed as sponsors and forced six Guatemalan boys to work 12 hours a day on an Ohio egg farm. Federal agents moved in and arrested them.
“The background checks are allegedly often inadequate, leaving children in the custody of potentially dangerous individuals,” the senators said in their news release.
Both senators said they are equally concerned that the government has done nothing to protect children already placed, even now that it has the whistleblower’s allegations.
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“Although the whistleblower claims to have relayed these concerns to supervisors in August of 2015, apparently these individuals have no immediate plans to remove (underage children) from their criminal sponsors,” they wrong in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
Once the Department of Homeland Security apprehend immigrant children near the border, they are processed there and then sent to HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. That office is in charge of placing them with sponsors
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