A crowded shelter for minors who’ve entered the country illegally is pictured in a March file photo in Donna, Texas. (Dario Lopez-Mills – Pool / AP)
By C. Douglas Golden September 23, 2021 at 1:16pm
With the onset of the COVID crisis last year, then-President Donald Trump’s administration invoked a section of U.S. Code Title 42 that allowed federal authorities to summarily expel illegal immigrants without allowing them the opportunity to apply for asylum.
President Joe Biden’s administration kept enforcement of Title 42 mostly the way it was under the Trump, with one notable exception: As CBS News reported, it stopped enforcing it on unaccompanied minors. This drove a massive influx of migrants under the age of 18 who crossed the border without parents or a guardian in the early months of the Biden administration.
In March alone, NPR noted almost 19,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers were apprehended by CBP, the highest number ever for a month. Photos began emerging of packed detention centers that included, according to Axios, a pod that contained over 400 unaccompanied male minors.
“Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government’s longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up.”https://t.co/WJnkV4zBFX pic.twitter.com/7XqagoPwak
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) March 22, 2021
We’ve mostly forgotten about this episode in the context of the wider border crisis, but new documents obtained by Judicial Watch show how the Biden administration’s policies allegedly enabled sexual abuse of minors. And yet, there was no outrage from the same left that put up a hue and cry over Trump’s “children in cages.”
On Wednesday, the conservative judicial watchdog organization released 41 pages of documents that revealed 33 separate instances of physical and sexual abuse allegations among unaccompanied minors recorded by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement in just one month.
“These incidents seemed to be tied to ‘voluntary agencies’ (VOLAGs), which are contractors for the federal government,” Judicial Watch stated in a news release.
“Ten of the allegations of sexual abuse were made against staff and ‘non-staff’ members. Twenty-one incidents of children sexually assaulting other children while in government contracted care facilities were reported.”
Is the border crisis going to hurt Democrats politically in next year’s midterms?
Health and Human Services didn’t provide any incident reports in the documents, which range from Jan. 21 to Feb. 25 of this year — the first month and change of the Biden administration.
BREAKING: Judicial Watch announced today that it received 41 pages of documents from the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) which list 33 separate incidences of alleged sexual abuse in a one month time period (1/3). https://t.co/t4OczYWc1J
— Judicial Watch ⚖️ (@JudicialWatch) September 22, 2021
“These documents show that not only are there shocking reports of sexual abuse occurring in shelters for unaccompanied children, but that there is violence amongst the [unaccompanied minors] themselves,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the news release.
“It is no surprise that Biden administration’s enabling of human trafficking has resulted in violence and the abuse of children.”
To be fair, the conditions at the facilities technically preceded Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, but the crush of illegal immigration began in anticipation of Biden’s taking the presidency. Migrants from south of the border didn’t start flocking to the United States expecting a warm welcome from the Trump administration.
It was Biden’s permissive stance on illegal immigration — the permissive stance of his Democratic Party — that has drawn illegal immigrants by the millions — and the human traffickers and sex traffickers who prey on them.
And crucially, it was allowing unaccompanied minors into the country that led to the overflowing shelters where the reported abuse took place.
It’s also worth noting that accommodations for these children cost the federal government billions of dollars — and when the contracts were awarded earlier this year, The Associated Press reported critics already thought the companies who won the bids were “not be equipped to adequately care for the minors.”
“In its haste to provide new facilities, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the largest contracts — worth more than $2 billion — to two companies and a nonprofit without a bidding process and has exempted providers from the staffing requirements that state-licensed child facilities must meet, according to HHS and federal spending records,” the AP reported in May.
That means the conditions that enabled the abuses documented in January and February are not likely to have abated.
And let’s not forget the administration has done a poor job of managing unaccompanied minors once they were released from custody. Earlier this month, Axios reported that between January and May, required calls by HHS to check up on the migrant children after they were released to sponsors went unanswered over one-third of the time.
What’s worse, of the 32,000 children and teens released to sponsors between January and May, only 14,600 calls were made, meaning less than half of unaccompanied minors were checked up on.
“While we make every effort to voluntarily check on children after we unite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-unification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” an HHS spokesperson told Axios.
This naturally raises questions as to whether the specter of sexual and physical abuse of unaccompanied minors is far worse than we realize from these documents. Keep in mind, minors generally spend as little time in shelters as necessary. And forget about what happened to them afterwards. What happened to them before they crossed the border, while they were quite likely being trafficked by cartels?
In these pages obtained by Judicial Watch, we see some of the consequences of the Biden administration’s decision to stop Title 42 expulsions for unaccompanied minors and only unaccompanied minors, thus creating a surge of them seeking asylum at the border. Rest assured, they won’t be the only consequences we see. In fact, the only consequences I can tell you with any certainty that we won’t see is Joe Biden being held to account by the Democrats for the policies that enabled this.