Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called on FBI Director Chris Wray to launch a full-scale investigation into some 85,000 migrant children who have been released into the U.S. under President Joe Biden that the administration has lost all contact with.
The letter from Hawley comes after former Health and Human Services (HHS) official-turned-whistleblower Tara Lee Rodas on Wednesday accused the U.S. government in a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing of becoming a “middleman” in a multi-billion dollar migrant trafficking operation at the southern border.
“According to statistics kept by Customs and Border Protection, some 345,000 children have come across the border unaccompanied since early 2021,” Hawley’s letter began. “I am sure you have seen recent reports in the New York Times that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has lost touch with as many as 85,000 migrant children. Thousands of these children are now the prey of child labor criminals.”
Since President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president over two years ago, more than 3.5 million illegal immigrants have crossed the southern border. Since January 2021, border patrol agents have encountered over 356,000 unaccompanied minors at the southern border, most of whom authorities released into the U.S.
“Reporting reveals that HHS loosened vetting processes for sponsors and retaliated against whistleblowers who raised these concerns,” Hawley’s letter continued. “As a result, thousands of children have been handed over to modern-day slave traders. They are forced into factory work under punishing conditions. They are forced to make auto parts, process meat in slaughterhouses, and reroof houses. They are denied food, education, and sometimes fear for their lives. They suffer sexual violence. In a country that claims to value the rule of law and the protection of children, this is unconscionable.”
Hawley noted that the widespread problem “plainly violates both the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits the abuse of underage workers, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which designates human trafficking offenses as federal crimes.”
The senator said that a “full-scale” effort was needed to locate the children, bring traffickers to justice, and hold administration officials accountable “for their role in facilitating the exploitation of these children, in violation of the law.”
Brandon Drey contributed to this report.