GOP Wants White House to Account for 85,000 Immigrant Kids

( – Tennessee’s Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn is asking pointed questions of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) concerning the whereabouts of 85,000 migrant children released into the U.S.

Blackburn sent a letter to DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on April 28th asking for answers about what the letter called the “abuse and exploitation” of migrant children. Blackburn’s concerns are prompted by whistleblower reports that migrant children were forced to labor and that the U.S. government is delivering some children to human traffickers.

Blackburn’s letter said her office was concerned about reports that unaccompanied immigrant children have been “mishandled” by DHHS. Reports indicate the department has been placing the children with un-vetted “sponsors” which has led to forced labor and other exploitation, the letter said. 

When DHHS Secretary Becerra testified in March to the Senate Finance Committee, he said he was not aware of that high number of apparently missing migrant children. “I have never heard that number of 85,000,” he said, adding that it “doesn’t sound at all realistic.”

Senators are concerned about the number of these unaccompanied children that the DHHS, apparently, cannot trace and contact. Becerra said in his March testimony that “We try and follow up as best as we can with these kids.”

Becerra pointed out that DHHS is not legally obliged to “follow up” with the migrant children after the minors have been placed with a sponsor, and that the children are not required to stay in contact with the government either.

Blackburn’s letter referred to Becerra’s testimony in which he said he was unaware of the number of “missing” children and unaware of the reports of forced labor. She wrote that “reporting following your testimony indicates a grave dereliction of duty.”

The Senator insisted on answers to a series of questions, including when Becerra learned about migrant children being given to sponsors that had not been adequately screened. She also asked Becerra if he was aware that it is a crime to knowingly make false statements to Congress. 

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