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United States Senate, PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Aug. 15, 2018 - "Since 2015, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has conducted extensive oversight of federal government programs designed to care for children who enter the United States without a parent or legal guardian and ensure they are not trafficked or abused. Although the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) have taken incremental steps toward improving the care of these children—called unaccompanied alien children (“UACs”) under federal law—they still do not take sufficient responsibility for guarding their safety and ensuring they appear at their immigration court proceedings.
Most significantly, no agency claims any legal responsibility for the children’s well-being once HHS places them with sponsors—including sponsors who are not their parents or legal guardians—and no agency makes any effort to ensure UACs placed with sponsors appear at their immigration court proceedings. And while DHS and HHS recently completed a Joint Concept of Operations (“JCO”)—some 17 months after it was due—the JCO only addresses current policy and fails to address any of the recommendations for improving the UAC system offered by the Subcommittee or the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”). Thus the JCO is largely a recitation of the status quo, and does little to offer hope that federal agencies are working effectively to improve UAC safety and ensure that the immigration system is functioning properly.
HHS, DHS, and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have taken some modest steps in the right direction, but major deficiencies persist that leave the children at significant risk for trafficking and abuse and undermine our immigration system. This report documents the Subcommittee’s findings over the past two and a half years since its initial hearing and report on UACs."