U.S. Senate subcommittee examines migrant children abuse

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal officials don't know how many migrant children they've sent to live with convicted criminals across the U.S.

See Full Article

over the last three years, at a time the government sought to move young Central American migrants out of shelters and into private homes, says the chair of a bipartisan congressional subcommittee that meets Thursday on the issue.

Overwhelmed by the numbers of children crossing the border, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services weakened its child protection policies, leaving children vulnerable to human trafficking, Sen. Rob Portman said Wednesday in an opening statement to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The subcommittee's hearing will examine weaknesses in the agency's placement program for migrant children, which Portman says suffers from "serious, systemic defects."

An Associated Press investigation released Monday found that more than two dozen unaccompanied children were sent to homes across the country where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.

In his statement, Portman said that as part of the subcommittee's six-month investigation, it reviewed "more than 30 cases involving serious indications of trafficking and abuse." Since almost all of the children have not been publicly identified, it could not immediately be determined if the children studied by the AP were among those cited by Portman.

"The program does an amazing job overall," HHS spokesman Mark Weber said in a recent AP interview. "We are not taking shortcuts."

Top HHS officials are scheduled to testify at the hearing, which will reveal new details in a case in Portman's home state of Ohio, where six Guatemalan unaccompanied minors were placed with human traffickers including sponsors and their associates. Lured to the U.S. with the promise of an education, the teens instead were forced to work up to 12 hours a day on egg farms under threats of death.

"HHS told us that it is literally unable to figure out how many children it has placed with convicted felons, what crimes those individuals committed, or how that class of children are doing today," Portman said in a statement, noting that the agency changed its criminal background check policy only Monday.

HHS bars releasing children to anyone convicted of child abuse or neglect or violent felonies like homicide and rape. In November, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said a whistleblower contacted his office saying that unaccompanied children were placed with 3,400 sponsors who had criminal histories including homicide, child molestation, sexual assault and human trafficking. The government says it is investigating that claim.

HHS says it recently signed a contract to open new shelters, and is strengthening its protection procedures as the number of young migrants is once again rising.

According to emails, agency memos and operations manuals obtained by AP, some under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency relaxed its procedures as the number of young migrants rose in response to spiraling gang and drug violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

First, the government stopped fingerprinting most adults seeking to claim the children. In April 2014, the agency stopped requiring original copies of birth certificates to prove most sponsors' identities. The next month, it decided not to complete forms that request sponsors' personal and identifying information before sending many of the children to sponsors' homes. Then, it eliminated FBI criminal history checks for many sponsors.

AP uncovered accounts of children placed with sponsors who forced them to work taking care of other children and in cantinas where women drink, dance and sometimes have sex with patrons. Other teens were placed with relatives who were abusive and locked them inside the home. Experts who work with migrant children, including a psychologist and an attorney, cited cases in which unaccompanied children were raped by relatives or other people associated with their sponsors.

Advocates say it is hard to gauge the total number of children exposed to dangerous conditions among the more than 89,000 placed with sponsors since October 2013 because many of the migrants designated for follow-up were nowhere to be found when social workers tried to reach them.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump and Trudeau look 'forward to meeting soon' after Saturday phone chat

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has congratulated U.S. President Trump on his inauguration. The Prime Minister's Office says the two men spoke by phone Saturday, but it was not immediately clear how long the conversation lasted. The PMO said in an email that Trudeau noted the depth of the Canada-U.S. Source
  • Backcountry skier dead following avalanche near Nelson, B.C.

    Canada News CBC News
    The BC Coroners Service says a woman is dead following an avalanche near Nelson, B.C. Spokeswoman Barbara McLintock says an adult woman was killed Saturday while skiing in the southern part of the province. No details have been released on the woman's identity or whether she was with anyone else at the time of the slide. Source
  • 74-year-old Ont. woman caught allegedly speeding at nearly twice the limit

    Canada News CTV News
    KINGSTON, Ont. - Ontario Provincial Police say a 74-year-old woman was pulled over in Kingston for speeding at nearly twice the posted limit. Police say the woman, who is a local resident, was doing 151 km/h in an 80 km/h zone on Highway 15 Friday afternoon. Source
  • Madonna drops F-bombs at Women's March in Washington [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    Madonna turned the air blue at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. with a string of ‘F’ words during her stirring anti-Donald Trump speech. The pop superstar joined hundreds of thousands of activists who marched on the U.S. Source
  • 12 people likely dead after central China landslide

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- Authorities in central China say 12 people are likely dead inside a hotel overrun by a landslide. State media reported that rescuers have not detected signs of life from 10 people who were trapped underneath rocks and debris after the Friday night landslide in Hunan province. Source
  • Trump praises CIA, rips media coverage of inauguration [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump opened his first full day as president Saturday at a national prayer service, the final piece of transition business for the nation’s new chief executive before a promised full-on shift into governing. Source
  • Celebs join anti-Trump women’s marches [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — If you wondered where many of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities had gone during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, you didn’t have to wonder any longer on Saturday, when scores of them showed up at women’s marches in Washington and other cities to send the new president a pointed message that he was in for a fight — and that, as so many signs said, women’s rights are human rights. Source
  • Fact check: Trump overstates crowd size at inaugural

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's speech Saturday at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency turned into the latest battle in, as he put it, his "running war with the media." He had two central complaints: that the media misrepresented the size of the crowd at his inauguration and that it was incorrectly reported a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. Source
  • Trump, Trudeau talk economy and exports in first conversation since inauguration

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has congratulated U.S. President Trump on his inauguration. The Prime Minister’s Office says the two men spoke by phone Saturday, but it was not immediately clear how long the conversation lasted. Source
  • A-list celebs join anti-Trump women’s marches [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — If you wondered where many of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities had gone during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, you didn’t have to wonder any longer on Saturday, when scores of them showed up at women’s marches in Washington and other cities to send the new president a pointed message that he was in for a fight — and that, as so many signs said, women’s rights are human rights. Source