A Senate report declared that the Obama administration has allowed several immigrant children to be handed over to human traffickers. According to a New York Times article published three days ago, a Senate report that was released on Thursday reveals that some “unaccompanied immigrant children” were placed in the hands of a ring of human traffickers who forced the children to work on egg farms. The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations started the inquiry after law enforcement officials uncovered the ring in Marion, Ohio, last year. The New York Times article states that “at least six children were lured to the United States from Guatemala with the promise of a better life,” but then they were sent to the egg farms. The immigrant children, who were as young as 14 were in federal custody before being given to the trafficking ring.
Today I published 4 pieces about a forced labor case in Marion. Here’s a story about the man who organized it all. https://t.co/kUtYlDxvmD— Eric Heisig (@eheisig) January 27, 2016
Rob Portman, chairman of the subcommittee and a Republican Senator in Ohio, said “It is intolerable that human trafficking — modern-day slavery — could occur in our own backyard.”
“But what makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U. S. government agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers.”
In the video above, Portman details how the trafficking abuse was discovered and said that six individuals were arrested and charged in the case. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri states that she is “angry and disgusted” by the relelation.
The New York Times article said the investigation found evidence that 13 other children had also been released to human traffickers posing as sponsors that were supposed to care for them during their immigration proceedings. Again, the government handed the immigrant children over to these adults, along with an additional 15 cases that also showed signs of trafficking.
The Senate report said it was unclear how many other children out of approximately 90,000 children the agency has placed over the past two years have been given to traffickers, including sex traffickers. The report said the agency does not keep track of these cases.
Senator Portman also stated that “Whatever your views on immigration policy, everyone can agree that the administration has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the migrant kids that have entered government custody until their immigration court date.”
Did HHS policies lead to human trafficking in Ohio? That's what a Rob Portman & a Senate subcommittee report says. https://t.co/9F9bsruvsD— SteveKoff (@SteveKoff) January 28, 2016
In the actual Senate report, it said that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had neglected to perform proper screening, such as background checks, before handing children over to sponsors. The Marion incident brought a federal criminal indictment to the traffickers. The traffickers had forced the immigrant children to work six or seven days a week, 12 hours per day, and threatened physical harm and even death to the children and their families if they did not work or surrender their entire paychecks.
The Senate report also declared that HHS was not able to detect “when a sponsor or group of related sponsors is seeking custody of multiple unrelated children.” This is a warning sign of potential trafficking which would warrant additional scrutiny. The report also found that HHS did not adequately conduct home studies which would allow them to check the welfare of the immigrant children who had been placed with sponsors.
The New York Times article also reported that thousands of immigrant children began showing up at the southern border in the fall of 2013, trying to escape gang violence and poverty in Central America. Most of these children also risked abuse by human traffickers and detention by police. HHS started placing these children in the custody of sponsors who took responsibility for the children while their immigration cases were reviewed.
Responding to the Senate report, HHS said it “had taken measures to strengthen the system, collecting information to subject potential sponsors and additional caregivers in a household to criminal background checks.”
What are your thoughts on the travesty of immigrant children being handed over to potential human traffickers without performing background checks on the sponsors? Please feel free to share your comments below.
[Image Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP]