by Jennie Taer
Republican Texas Rep. Lance Gooden sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra Tuesday asking him to address alleged mishandling of illegal alien children released into the U.S. amid concerns over improper vetting of sponsors caring for them.
Gooden asked Becerra to answer to alleged improper vetting of sponsors caring for unaccompanied alien children, according to the letter. The letter comes after the Biden administration began probing factories allegedly employing illegal alien children in inhumane conditions, some of which were released to sponsors they didn’t know well or at all.
“President Biden’s border crisis is not only threatening the safety of our communities, but it’s also putting unaccompanied minors crossing our border at risk of human trafficking and exploitation by criminal cartels. HHS must provide Congress answers as to how it intends to protect the safety of these children, as well as why they have eliminated safety measures intended to keep them safe,” Gooden said in a statement to the DCNF.
The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border in recent years has led to increased encounters of unaccompanied alien children. The number of encounters of children at the U.S.-Mexico border increased from more than 33,000 in fiscal year 2020 to more than 152,000 in fiscal year 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Amid the surge, HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in 2022 removed a requirement to check a sponsor’s immigration status or U.S. citizenship.
“I am concerned that fraud surrounding UAC sponsorship is severe due to your department’s lackluster policies and procedures to verify a sponsor’s identity and relationship to the child. Children apprehended, transported, and processed alone are not safe from human traffickers, who may pose as sponsors once migrant children are flown throughout the country by the federal government,” Gooden wrote in his letter to Becerra.
“This is a clear failure that leaves migrant children vulnerable to human traffickers and provides criminals with an easy gateway into the United States. To ensure the record number of children at our southern border are safe and placed with properly vetted sponsors throughout the country, this Administration must provide more transparency into the policies and procedures surrounding UACs,” Gooden wrote.
HHS didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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Jennie Taer is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.