Concerns over America’s immigration policies reached a fever pitch this month, as new reports surfaced about a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America flooding into border states. Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby set off a firestorm after publishing leaked internal federal government photos of foreign children packed into overcrowded processing facilities as they awaited processing, drawing condemnation of both the failed government policies and the humanitarian costs from elected officials such as Senator Ted Cruz, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and Congressman Blake Farenthold.
Pursuant to Section 462(a) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, responsibility for “unaccompanied alien children” was transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”), under the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”). Under this law, ORR is charged with “coordinating and implementing the care and placement of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status.”
This includes identifying facilities to house the children, overseeing the infrastructure and personnel of such facilities, and “maintaining statistical information and other data” on all the children in ORR’s custody and control.
Furthermore, Section 462(b)(2) expressly requires that any placement of unaccompanied minors be conducted so as to “ensure that unaccompanied alien children … are likely to appear for all hearings and proceedings in which they are involved; are protected from smugglers, traffickers, or others who might seek to victimize or otherwise engage them in criminal, harmful, or exploitative activity; and are placed in a setting where they are not likely to pose a danger to themselves or others.” This section further prohibits releasing these children “on their own recognizance,” in other words, releasing them in exchange for a promise to reappear at a later date.
During the past few weeks, multiple news agencies, including Breitbart, have reported stories about HHS dropping off unaccompanied minors at bus stations in Arizona and elsewhere. This would seem to be in violation of ORR’s clear requirements to “identify” and “oversee” the facilities where unaccompanied minors are to be housed. Additionally, the squalid and overcrowded conditions at the bus stations and at ORR holding facilities are likely raising the risks that these minors may be harmed, suffer health complications, fall victim to criminals, etc. Last Friday, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin joined many others concerned about the welfare of these children, sharply criticizing the Obama administration and Congress for “exploiting” these children for their own political gain.
To date, Breitbart investigations have been unable to determine if ORR is meeting its obligation of “maintaining statistical information and other data” on all the unaccompanied minor children who have been placed under their care.
Sarah Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.