Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra told lawmakers on Wednesday that he was “not aware of the reported statistics that the agency has been unable to contact more than 85,000 unaccompanied migrant children who were released to sponsors after being encountered at the southern border.”
Secretary Xavier Becerra was asked by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., during a Senate Finance Committee hearing about details in a New York Times report about migrant children who have been released to sponsors.
The Times reported that while HHS checks on all minors by calling sponsors a month after being fired, data showed that over the past two years the agency was unable to reach more than 85,000 minors and lost immediate contact with a third. migrant children
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US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on the 2024 budget proposals on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 22, 2023. ((Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images))
Becerra told Lankford that his staff regularly briefs him on the issue of unaccompanied migrant children, but he was unaware of the number.
“I’ve never heard that number of 85,000, I don’t know where it’s coming from and … so to be realistic I’d say it doesn’t sound at all, and what we do is we try to keep up as best we can with these kids,” he said.
“Congress has given us certain authorities. Our authorities end when we find a suitable sponsor to place that child. We try to do a follow-up, but neither the child nor the sponsor is obligated to follow us,” he said. .
When unaccompanied minors come to the border, the Border Patrol turns them over to Health and Human Services (HHS) and tries to find an in-country sponsor, usually a family member.
The Times reported how some of these children were trafficked and forced to work in dangerous jobs.
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Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., followed up on Lankford’s questioning about what steps HHS was taking to make sure children weren’t being found and trafficked — again citing the 85,000 figure.
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“The statistics in question, as I said earlier about another question asked by one of your colleagues, are unknown to me,” Becerra said. “I don’t know where the statistics come from, whether they are based on reality or not. And we do everything we can to make sure that before we hand over to a sponsor, that sponsor is verified. .”
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“The majority of these kids end up with an immediate family member as a placement, so some of these statistics that have been thrown around don’t seem to be based on the truth and actually seem to be the opposite of what we’ve done,” he said.
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics, the number of UACs arriving at the border increased from 33,239 in 2020 to 146,000 in 2021 and 152,000 in 2022. kids.
Adam Shaw is a political reporter for Fox News Digital, primarily covering immigration and border security.
He can be contacted at email@example.com or via Twitter.