Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) is demanding that the FBI investigate the exploitation of thousands of unaccompanied alien children (IUAC) who may have been brought into the United States via child smuggling operations.
According to data from US Customs and Border Protection, approximately 345,000 minors have crossed into the United States unaccompanied since President Joe Biden took office, while a report from the NY Times suggests that the Department of Health and Human Services has lost contact with 85,000 of these minors.
"The Biden Administration is morally responsible for their fate. The President lifted Title 42 restrictions on unaccompanied children in early 2021," wrote Hawley in a Friday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. "Reporting reveals that HHS loosened vetting processes for sponsors and retaliated against whistleblowers who raised these concerns. As a result, thousands of children have been handed over to modern-day slave traders."
Hawley also threw Biden under the bus, noting that under his watch, lost minors are often forced into factory work under harsh conditions, denied food and education, suffer sexual violence, and fear for their lives.
"In a country that claims to value the rule of law and the protection of children, this is unconscionable," Hawley added.
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing in late March, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra denied knowledge of the 85,000 figure.
"I have never heard that number of 85,000, I don’t know where it comes from and … so I would say it doesn’t sound at all to be realistic, and what we do is we try and follow up as best we can with these kids," he said, adding "Congress has given us certain authorities. Our authorities end when we have found a suitable sponsor to place that child with. We try and do some follow-up, but neither the child or the sponsor is actually obligated to follow up with us."
In addition to urging the FBI to mount a “full-scale” effort to locate the missing children and bring to justice the criminals who are holding them in modern-day slavery, Hawley also demanded a probe into HHS and the Department of Homeland Security.
“The FBI must also investigate HHS and the Department of Homeland Security for their role in facilitating the exploitation of these children, in violation of the law,” Hawley wrote.
“The pervasive maltreatment of migrant children plainly violates both the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits the abuse of underage workers, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which designates human trafficking offenses as federal crimes,” Hawley wrote.
Hawley demanded a “full report” from the FBI priority by May 25. -Epoch Times
On Wednesday, an HHS whistleblower told officials that unaccompanied children have been "suffering in the shadows" of the US immigration system for almost a decade.
"I have to confess I knew nothing about their suffering until 2021 when I volunteered to help the Biden administration with the crisis at the southern border as part of operation Artemis," said Tara Lee Rodas, who appeared as a witness at "The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children" hearing held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement.
Rodas said she was deployed to help HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) reunite UACs with adult sponsors in the United States.
"I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes. Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with recruiting in home country, smuggling to the U.S. border, and ends when ORR delivers a child to a sponsor—some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of transnational criminal organizations, some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income."
In some cases, Rodas says she witnessed adult sponsors who were allowed to take in "10, 20, 30 and 40 children" without any concerns from HHS.
"I saw sponsors trying to simultaneously sponsor children from multiple ORR sites at one time. I saw sponsors using multiple addresses to obtain sponsorships of children, and I saw numerous cases of children in debt bondage—and the child knew they had to stay with the sponsor until the debt was paid," she said.
The next day, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wrote to Becerra and demanded answers.
"I am deeply concerned regarding the recent reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has mishandled unaccompanied migrant children by placing them with unvetted sponsors, leading to their exploitation and forced labor," she wrote.