Months before the most recent border-crossing crisis, CNN reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was unable to locate nearly 1,500 immigrant children it had placed with sponsors in 2017.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement reached out to 7,635 unaccompanied children in the final months of last year to check on them, but they could not “deter- mine the whereabouts of 1,475 children.” The ORR also learned that 28 children had run away.
According to CNN, the number of missing children was reported to a Senate sub- committee in April by Steve Wagner, a top official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the acting secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.
Wagner said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had referred more than 40,000 migrant children to the ORR during the 2017 fiscal year, reported CNN. After a preliminary stay in an ORR shelter, typically they are sent to live with a close relative sponsor, though some may be placed with non-relatives.
Reportedly, the ORR has a series of evaluations to determine that a sponsor is suitable for providing care for the children.
According to CNN, Wagner told the subcommittee that “HHS’s long-standing interpretation of the law is that the ORR is not legally responsible for the children after they are released from the ORR care.”
Wagner added that if the ORR were legally responsible for the immigrant children’s well-being, it would need a significant increase in resources.
Since the Senate subcommittee hearing, the Trump administration toughened its stance against admitting immigrant families. In June, migrant parents and children were being separated and placed at different detention or care sites.
After extensive news coverage and widespread (even bipartisan) protest, President Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of parents and children in late June.
By that point, the DHS estimated 2000 newly immigrated children had been shipped to detention care facilities far away from their parents at the border entry point.