By Joe Guzzardi
February 3, 2016
Gross bureaucratic malfeasance has allowed illegal immigrant children to be placed into what U.S. Attorney Steven Dettlebach called “modern-day slavery.” Among the culpable in the criminal treatment of unaccompanied Central American minors from the recent border surges are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A January 26 front-page Washington Post story revealed the sordid details.
The huge Central American migration overwhelmed the federal agencies responsible for assuring that the children were safely relocated with their United States’ families. Unable to keep up with the migrant flow, social workers stopped verifying many sponsors’ identities, discontinued site visits to review the in-home conditions, and no longer considered past child molestation and homicide charges which would automatically disqualify potential hosts. Even deportable illegal alien sponsors qualified.
For the traffickers, getting access to the children was easy. They went to minors’ detention centers to get permission to take the teenagers’ on friends-of-the-family grounds. The applications weren’t vetted. Initially, HHS stopped fingerprinting most adults who claimed a child, then dropped the requirement for original copies of birth certificates to prove a sponsor’s identity. Finally, HHS decided not to complete forms that requests the sponsors’ personal and identifying information before releasing the children. HHS also permitted sponsors to refuse post-release child services, another way the agency could check up on the migrants’ well-being. When the sponsors participated, but then discontinued, government agencies began a 30-day search for the child’s whereabouts. If unsuccessful, cases were closed without long-term follow up.
In the Obama administration’s rush to minimize the bad publicity the border surge created, it made every effort to place the children as quickly as possible, a bad strategy as it turned out. A Senate investigation discovered that some unaccompanied minors ended up doing forced labor on Trillium Farms, a Marion, Ohio industrial egg producer, where they worked six or seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Traffickers repeatedly threatened the children and their families with physical abuse and occasionally, death.
While DHS Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) sat on the sidelines, FBI raids ended the Ohio abuse. HSI routinely accepts few human trafficking cases and does little to pursue illegal alien hiring or abuse claims, a level of disinterest consistent with the Obama administration’s lax enforcement procedures. After a six-month review that delved into how the government handled the roughly 125,000 alien children that have surged the border since 2011, Senator Rob Portman, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said: “It sounds like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
Scrambling to defend itself, the Department of Homeland Security announced the “Blue Campaign,” an effort to raise human trafficking awareness among the general public, first responders, law enforcement, educators, and businesses. But a more effective, permanent solution to human trafficking lies in a compassionate immigration policy that secures the border, protects the interior and discourages—rather than encourages or enables—illegal immigration which all too often fosters abuse.
Human trafficking is preventable but not as long as the perpetrators are confident apprehension and punishment are the exception rather than the rule.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]