For several weeks, the caravan of Central American nationals organized by the open borders group Pueblo Sin Fronteras has been moving closer to the U.S. Their travels have been a source for multiple human interest stories about the plight of migrants. And politicians have criticized the Trump administration for their heartless efforts to block the caravan and close loopholes in the nation’s asylum laws, while urging the United States take them in.
While no one disputes the horrendous conditions in their native countries, the notion that the compassionate response is leaving in place policies that incentivize individuals to embark on or pay smugglers to take their children on dangerous journeys in search of asylum is asinine.
Even if it were true that the risk in fleeing violence in Central America was worth it, those advocating policies that make it easier for asylum seekers to resettle in the U.S. willfully ignore the danger to the children in both physical and psychological terms.
As was disclosed at a Senate hearing on Thursday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that despite performing welfare checks on children and their sponsors 30 days after placement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lost track of 1,475 of the 7,635 unaccompanied minors it tried to reach between October and December 2017.
During the hearing, officials from HHS acknowledged they’d yet to establish proper procedures for processing unaccompanied minors, including how to conduct sufficient background checks on sponsors and adequately performing follow up appointments.
This is nothing new and was echoed in a 2016 GAO report that found the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was failing to keep complete information on those contracted to screen sponsors and provide services to the unaccompanied minors is incomplete. In addition, ORR’s monitoring was inconsistent and they were failing to monitor the facilities that care for the children, and failed to visit some of them for as many as seven years.
Even worse, investigators with the Senate Homeland Security Committee reported in January 2016 that at least 19 children were placed in the homes of human traffickers as a result of shoddy background checks. Another 15 children showed signs of that they’d been in the hands of traffickers and, the report said, it was unclear how many of the 90,000 children resettled since 2014 had been similarly put in abusive homes.
There are many people calling for those on the caravan and thousands of others like them to be welcomed into country, but pushing them into an overburdened and underprepared system is not in anybody’s best interest.