IG bombshell: Workers at HHS child migrant centers unvetted for sex offense, child abuse history
Department watchdog's explosive findings land amid growing alarm at reports of lax oversight and economic exploitation of unaccompanied child migrants following a New York Times report that resttlement office lost track of 85,000 unaccompanied migrant children.
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An explosive new federal watchdog report found that emergency holding centers hurriedly opened by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to accommodate a Biden-era surge of unaccompanied minors at the southern border have been lax in vetting employees for child abuse and neglect and sexual offenses.
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) visited an influx care facility (ICF) and 10 emergency intake sites (EIS) opened to shelter "an unprecedented number of unaccompanied children" arriving at the border under President Biden to determine whether the facilities were complying with required background checks on employees.
The watchdog found that "ORR's ICF and EISs did not conduct or document all required background checks or did not conduct the checks in a timely manner."
According to the report:
- FBI fingerprint checks were "not conducted or documented" for 174 of 229 EIS employees, while another 25 were "conducted but not in a timely manner." Only 30 were "conducted in a timely manner."
- Background checks for child abuse and neglect were not conducted for 200 of 229 EIS employees, with 20 conducted but not promptly, and only 9 conducted promptly. "For 51 of the 200 employees, ORR had waived the Child Abuse and Neglect (CA/N) check requirement," the report noted.
Federal regulations explicitly prohibit ORR — tasked with the "care and placement" of unaccompanied migrant children (UAC) — from "hiring or enlisting the services" of anyone to work with children if they have any documented history of sexual misconduct. However, the ORR is allowed to "waive or modify" background checks so long as it's "for good cause," like an emergency.
Of a required 78 sex offender registry checks, 42 were "not conducted or documented," and another 11 were "conducted but not in a timely manner," according to the report. Less than a third, 25, were "conducted in a timely manner."
According to the Assistant Regional Inspector General Sylvie Witten, the ORR "did not waive the DOJ sex offender registry check" and many were not vetted through it despite being "required."
"The waivers ORR issued to the three EISs waived the FBI fingerprint check and CA/N check," Witten told Just The News. "For the three EISs with a waiver, ORR required a sex offender registry check (in addition to the public records check required of EISs).
Witten also said the sex offender registry check was an "added requirement" put in place by the ORR "for the three emergency intake sites." Those same sited were waived from the FBI fingerprint checks and the Child Abuse and Neglect checks.
The OIG findings about ORR's failure to vet employees at UAC shelters, land amid growing alarm at reports of lax oversight and economic exploitation of unaccompanied child migrants.
The New York Times reported in February that HHS has lost track of "more than 85,000 children" after they were placed with loosely vetted sponsors.
According to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, two out of three UACs that are processed out of HHS facilities go on to work "illegal, full time jobs" in grueling conditions.
ORR whistleblowers claim HHS "regularly ignored obvious signs of labor exploitation," the committee said, "such as single sponsors sponsoring multiple UAC, 'hot spots' in the country where many UAC sponsors are not the children's parents, UAC with significant debts, and direct reports of trafficking."
Pressed in an oversight hearing last month, ORR Director Robin Dunn Marcos was unable to answer questions about the missing 85,000 missing children and the process for screening their sponsors, according to the committee.
"In @GOPoversight just now I asked the ORR Director why 85,000 children from the border are missing once they're placed to sponsors through her agency," Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs tweeted at the time. "She had no answers. The Biden Administration has faux compassion for these kids."
In FY 2021, more than 120,000 children were referred to the ORR for care and resettlement.
With Title 42 set to expire this week, conditions at the border are expected to further deteriorate. In April, more than 90,000 illegal aliens crossed into the U.S. over a 10-day period, and border officials estimate an additional 10,000 daily crossings once the Trump-era immigration rule comes to an end.
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