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Biden admin neglected sex-offender checks when placing migrant children with sponsors: IG

The ORR removed safeguards during the sponsor screening process.

Published: September 27, 2022 3:06pm

Updated: September 27, 2022 6:12pm

A scathing report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General has found that the Biden administration failed to properly take care of migrant children at processing centers amid a massive influx of arrivals at the southern border and, in some cases, released migrant children to sponsors without proper screenings.

The study focused on the emergency intake site (EIS) established at Fort Bliss, Texas. It found that "operational challenges within [Office of Refugee Resettlement] and at this EIS hindered case management, which raises concerns related to children's safe and timely release from ORR care."

Moreover, it highlighted concerns from EIS which state that "the facility's rushed opening impeded ORR's ability to bring in experienced case managers and provide them with adequate and timely training." The lengthy time between status updates that ensued, in some cases weeks at a time, prompted "many children to experience distress, anxiety, and in some cases, panic attacks."

An alarming section of the report revealed that the ORR issued guidance to speed up processing times, but in so doing removed safeguards during the sponsor screening process. "Although the purpose of the guidance was to reduce delays, the removal of these safeguards may have also increased children's risk of release to unsafe sponsors," the IG continued.

Moreover, the report identified instances in which some case managers neglected to consider the presence of sex offenders in sponsor households or past histories of abuse or neglect among candidates.

"Federal field specialist supervisors reported that some inexperienced case managers showed a disregard for long-established child-welfare best practices," the report reads. "In some cases, release recommendations made by these inexperienced case managers
reportedly failed to consider children’s significant history of abuse and neglect or whether sex offenders resided in the potential sponsor’s household."

The IG recommend that the agency develop a plan to hire more case managers, overhaul existing training for them, develop an emergency policy for an unexpected influx, improve its digital case management system, and to inform staff of whistleblower protections so as to identify further deficiencies in the system.

The report comes amid an unprecedented migration flux at the United States southern border, with more than 2 million migrant encounters documented in the past fiscal year alone. Total encounters in August topped 200,000. The journey to the U.S. is rife with danger due to natural barriers and the presence of drug and human trafficking operations. Earlier this year the United Nations International Organization for Migration labelled the U.S. border with Mexico the "deadliest land crossing in the world."

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