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GOP turns tables on Dems as Biden administration loses track of thousands of migrant children

House Republicans are expected to grill Office of Refugee Resettlement director at hearing Tuesday on HHS failure to vet, monitor and track unaccompanied migrant children, whose arrival at the border has grown more than 10-fold under Biden.

Published: April 17, 2023 11:04pm

Four years after Democrats made political hay out of migrant children being separated from their parents at the border, Republicans have turned the tables on the issue amid evidence the Biden administration has lost track of as many as 85,000 minors it allowed to enter the country unaccompanied by parents, leaving many prey to cartel extortion, forced labor, abuse and trafficking.

The extraordinary political boomerang will be on full display Tuesday when Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Robin Dunn Marcos is grilled by a House Oversight subcommittee on the failure of the Department of Health and Human Services to vet, monitor and track unaccompanied migrant children, whose arrival at the border has grown more than 10-fold since Joe Biden took office.

"We have to do all we can to publicize this human rights tragedy going on in our southern border," Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.), the subcommittee chairman, told Just the News on Monday.

"We are not using DNA tests to even say who these children are or to make sure these children are going to relatives," he added. "They are resettling them across the United States. Even the New York Times — there's articles about a lot of them working probably against child labor laws. We believe a lot of these children are forced to send money back to the cartels."

Grothman said the Biden administration seems so detached from and indifferent to the danger these children have faced that during a recent border trip they bragged to him they had a novel solution: providing comfort dogs for border agents stressed by the crisis.

"Rather than beef up the Border Patrol, they're hiring guys and gals to take care of the dogs, which are supposed to provide therapy for the Border Patrol," the congressman said during an interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast. "We talked to a member of the union down there. They thought it was a joke. It's almost unbelievable. Rather than hiring a dog to drug sniff, they're hiring a dog to provide psychological counsel to our border patrol."

House Republicans plan to confront Marcos with a mountain of evidence and questions, starting with statistics. Grothman said the number of unaccompanied children who cross the border exploded from 15,000 in President Donald Trump's last year in office to more than 130,000 a year under Biden.

Federal officials have acknowledged they have lost track of and stopped monitoring as many as 85,000 of those children, citing a lack of resources, among other things.

A recent Florida grand jury report laid out harrowing tales of such children being trafficked by cartels, sexually abused or forced into unlawful labor, a dynamic the New York Times highlighted again on Monday.

"The public is led to believe that the process described by our federal government in documents and popular media accounts at least resembled the truth," the Florida grand jury wrote in a stunningly graphic report. "ORR asserts that children fleeing from danger are adequately identified, properly cared for, and reunited with their family here in this country. In reality, ORR is facilitating the forced migration, sale, and abuse of foreign children, and some of our fellow Florida residents are (in some cases unwittingly) funding and incentivizing it for primarily economic reasons."

Grothman said his subcommittee has uncovered significant evidence migrant children have been left unprotected by the very government that facilitated their entry into the country.

"Smugglers are exploiting the Biden administration's policies by profiting from the trafficking of migrant children into the United States," he said. "We would undoubtedly be greatly concerned if this many American children were placed in such dangerous situations. We should exercise the same degree of concern for migrant children coming across the border, particularly with the vast presence of criminal cartels in their lives.

"The Office of Refugee Resettlement's negligence has contributed to migrant children being lost, released to sponsors not thoroughly vetted, exploited for illegal child labor in hazardous conditions, and in danger of being trafficked."

Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra appeared to be oblivious to his own department's data on the magnitude of the crisis. When he was confronted by the 85,000 statistic last month, he told lawmakers he was not familiar with the number. "I have never heard that number of 85,000, I don't know where it comes from," he said. 

A New York Times reporter offered a quick way for the Cabinet secretary to familiarize himself with the facts. "He says he doesn't know where those numbers come from," reporter Hannah Dreier wrote. "For what it's worth, they're from the HHS press office.

Dreier followed up her earlier reporting on the issue Monday with a new investigative expose alleging the Biden administration turned a blind eye to repeated warnings unaccompanied minors were being forced into illegal and dangerous labor.

"Thousands of children have ended up in punishing jobs across the country — working overnight in slaughterhouses, replacing roofs, operating machinery in factories — all in violation of child labor laws," a recent Times investigation showed. After the article's publication in February, the White House announced policy changes and a crackdown on companies that hire children

"But all along, there were signs of the explosive growth of this labor force and warnings that the Biden administration ignored or missed," Dreier wrote.

Grothman told Just the News he believes the administration has prioritized opening up the border to remake the demographics of the United States over protecting children.

"I think the attitude that drives the Biden administration," he said, "is: 'We want as many people in this country as possible to change this country as quickly as possible, and if once the kids come here we don't have the staff to monitor them, where they're going, well, we don't care. Because we've accomplished our goal.'" 

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