WASHINGTON, DC - Senators ripped government officials for losing track of minors who crossed the border illegally either alone or with relatives.
A Senate subcommittee questioned officials after a Senate investigation concluded the government failed to improve care of the children and left them at risk of abuse after release from government custody.
The government blames a lot of the problems on years of inaction by Congress.
Senate investigators say the government lost track of about 15 hundred children but Federal officials say, no they didn't.
Jonathan White of Health and Human Services said, “There are no lost children. There are some families that don't take our call and there's a big difference. Our requirement is to reach out, to have the programs that have provided care to the children reach out 30 days after sponsoring the child and see if there's anything they need, anything they can help them with. But it is not mandatory that the sponsor of the child take the call and many immigrant families after the child leaves our care do not want anything more to do with us, do not want anything more with the systems they have been through."
Subcommittee chairman Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio would not accept that. He said, “Your blanket statement that there are no lost children is simply inaccurate. There are lost children, clearly. I can't believe you would think that because you don't know where 15 hundred were under a three month period of December. You do know that a couple dozen of these kids actually ran away from their sponsors; that there are no lost children. Of course there are lost children and that's the whole point here. No one's responsible."
Portman asked why don't they have to take the call? Who enforces the sponsor agreement? He concluded the answer is nobody.
The Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security heard from ICE, Border Patrol, the Justice Department and Health and Human Services because that department runs the Office of Refugee Resettlement. That office places children released from custody with their families or with sponsors until there's a decision on whether they'll stay in the U.S. or be deported.
The Senate report says how to handle the children is a problem that began in the Obama Administration but grew worse when the Trump Administration invoked a zero tolerance policy.
The Government agencies dispute the report findings and blame many of the problems on Congress failing to act on many immigration issues.