And that’s just a third of those we managed to catch. Thousands of minors have simply vanished from the government’s radar between January and May, and no one knows where they are. The problem got worse as the border crisis deepened as well, according to documents obtained by Axios:
Roughly 1 in 3 calls made to released migrant kids or their sponsors between January and May went unanswered. During the first five months of the year, care providers made 14,600 required calls to check in with migrant minors released from HHS-run shelters.
In 4,890 of those instances, workers were unable to reach either the migrant or the sponsor, who often is a relative. The percentage of unsuccessful calls grew, from 26% in January to 37% in May, the data provided to Axios showed.
Axios’ Stef Knight dug a little deeper in a separate report. While the specific data she received ends in May, the months of June and July broke records for illegal border crossing. The problem may have grown exponentially worse by now:
More than 65,000 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally during those months, and July set yet another all-time record for young border crossers. That suggests the problem of losing track of released children could be compounded in the months to come.
The data also indicates calls aren’t happening with the frequency they should. Between President Biden’s inauguration and the end of May, HHS discharged 32,000 children and teens — but the government placed fewer than 15,000 follow-up calls, according to the FOIA response.
Are these children being hidden from DHS by family members concerned about possible deportation? Maybe, but Knight suggests that they may be being exploited by labor or sex traffickers. It has happened in the past, she reminds us, which is why HHS is supposed to make those welfare checks on a regular basis:
The government is already investigating whether dozens of migrant children were released to labor traffickers, as Bloomberg Law recently reported.
This happened in 2014 as well, when migrant teens were released to traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm.
If we’re lucky, we’ll find them on egg farms. We’ll be lucky, in fact, to find them at all. It’s entirely possible that a significant number of these missing minors have been exploited in some manner while in the US after being exploited by people outside the US into crossing the border on their own. By this time, the trails may be so cold that we won’t ever be able to find them and get them back into protective custody — and even if we do, the damage may have already been done.
This is nowhere near the level of disgrace that comes from abandoning Americans behind Taliban lines. It’s still disgraceful, however, and yet another demonstration of the incompetence and casual cruelty that has become emblematic of the Joe Biden presidency.