Many of the record numbers of unaccompanied minors who were apprehended entering the United States illegally in recent years have failed to show up for immigration hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reports.
“According to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, over 40 percent of unaccompanied minors are not showing up for immigration hearings,” Grassley said Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary hearing examining the ongoing border surge.
“Yet no one is following up on these individuals when they skip their immigration hearings, unless they are receiving post-release services,” he continued. “They are also not enforcement priorities for this administration. This means a lot of these minors are nowhere to be found.”
In Fiscal Year 2014 more than 68,000 unaccompanied minors — largely from Central America — were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. While the Obama administration has attempted to cull the flow via aid to Central, this year the influx is on pace to surpass 2014 with 20,455 unaccompanied minors apprehended as of January 31 so far this fiscal year.
Once apprehended the minors are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which places them with family members or sponsors in the U.S. to await immigration hearings.
Grassley noted that in addition to he concerns about the minors’ well-being in the care of sponsors, some of the unaccompanied minors have committed crimes.
“Not only is this a problem because these minors are not being properly cared for, but because some of them are committing serious crimes. Over the past year, I have written numerous letters to the Obama Administration officials on this very topic,” he said, highlighting the recent murder of a 17-year-old in Loudoun County by other teens with MS-13 ties who days earlier had failed to appear for immigration hearings.
A Government Accountability Office review of the ORR system of sponsor placement and tracking. released Monday, found gaps in the process.
“GAO’s review of a sample of children’s case files found that they often did not contain required documents, making it difficult to verify that all required services were provided,” the report read.
“ORR revised its on-site monitoring program in 2014 to ensure better coverage of grantees,” it continued. “However, ORR was not able to complete all the visits it planned for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, citing lack of resources. By not monitoring its grantees consistently, ORR may not be able to identify areas where children’s care is not provided in accordance with ORR policies and the agreements with grantees.”