Biden Admin Failed To Vet Adults Housing Migrant Children, Federal Watchdog Says

HHS often did not check on children for months.
TOPSHOT - A girl (detail shoes) waits to be processed by US Border Patrol agent (detail shoe) after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona in the early morning of July 11, 2022. - Every year, tens of thousands of migrants fleeing violence or poverty in Central and South America attempt to cross the border into the United States in pursuit of the American dream. Many never make it. (Photo by allison dinner / AFP) (Photo by ALLISON DINNER/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration failed to properly vet and monitor adults in homes where they placed migrant children in 2021, a federal watchdog has found.

Basic required checks like criminal background checks were not performed on some adults who ended up housing children, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) inspector general’s office.

In just March and April of 2021, HHS placed 16,790 children with adults.

The federal watchdog looked at the case files of 342 of those migrant children, just a small subset of the many thousands of children who showed up at the border in the previous months. In 16% of the cases the watchdog looked at, HHS failed to prove it had performed any basic safety checks like background or address checks. Also, in more than a third of the cases reviewed by the inspector general, HHS could not produce legible documentation for the adults. This means their IDs had issues like missing holograms or blurry images, raising concerns about them being forged.

“We found that children’s case files and sponsor records were not always updated with important documentation and information,” said Haley Lubeck, an analyst for the inspector general’s office.

In about a fifth of the cases reviewed, HHS did not check on the children it had placed in a timely manner, sometimes for months. The HHS responded to the report by saying most of the issues it cited are things the department is already addressing.

“The overwhelming majority of findings and recommendations address records management and documentation issues that (the agency) has already improved through training, monitoring, technology, and evaluation,” HHS spokesman Jeff Nesbit said.

Last year, HHS was criticized for releasing migrant children too quickly, resulting in some of them being exploited for child labor. Dozens of migrant children, some as young as 12, said they were working overnight or at dangerous jobs for companies in the U.S., an investigation from The New York Times reported in February 2023.


Meanwhile, the Biden administration is dealing with an ongoing crisis at the southern border, with hundreds of thousands of migrants illegally crossing into the country every month. In December, authorities encountered 302,000 migrants at the border, the highest monthly total on record and the first time the total has ever topped 300,000. Overall last year, 2.5 million migrants were apprehended crossing or trying to cross the southern border, according to the CBP. However, that does not include the more than 96,000 “known gotaways,” migrants who were detected but not caught, or the unknown gotaways.

President Biden’s approval rating on immigration hit an all-time low of 32% last month, and his overall approval rating remains low as well.

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