Federal Government Is Releasing Illegal Immigrant Children Into Homes with Dangerous Living Conditions

Photo by: Eric Gay FILE - This June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Immigration courts backlogged by years of staffing shortages and tougher enforcement face an even more daunting challenge since tens of thousands of Central Americans began arriving on the U.S. border fleeing violence back home. For years, children from Central America traveling alone and immigrants who prove they have a credible fear of returning home have been entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool, File)
Photo by: Eric Gay
FILE – This June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Immigration courts backlogged by years of staffing shortages and tougher enforcement face an even more daunting challenge since tens of thousands of Central Americans began arriving on the U.S. border fleeing violence back home. For years, children from Central America traveling alone and immigrants who prove they have a credible fear of returning home have been entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool, File)

While much of the focus in the illegal immigrant surge has been on border security, the federal government does a poor job of ensuring relatives who claim children who enter the U.S. illegally are giving them the care they need, according to internal audits that suggest problems remain despite years of warnings.

The Obama administration says its priority is to make sure the children get a fair hearing and protections to which they are entitled — but the recent surge has so overwhelmed officials that they are cutting corners in background checks, meaning some children are turned over to parents who cannot provide for them or, in the worst of cases, could be endangering them.

One nonprofit estimated as many as 10 percent of the children are being sent to live in unacceptable or dangerous conditions. Given the numbers crossing the border, that could translate into thousands of children eventually having to be rescued by local child services agencies.

“There’s such a large pressure on social workers to reunify children quickly, and [while] the protocols of what background checks a sponsor has to go through [have] been reduced, the number of home visits has [also] been reduced,” said Caitlin Sanderson, program director at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project.

Under federal law, children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian are supposed to be processed by Homeland Security and then turned over in 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human ServicesHHS is charged with placing the children in the best possible situation, which often means releasing them to family or other relatives or, if that’s not possible, sending them to facilities specially set up to handle them.

But the numbers have overwhelmed HHS’s Office or Refugee Resettlement, whose intake of unaccompanied minors jumped from 1,000 a month in March 2012 to 2,000 a month a year later to 9,500 children this May.

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Source: Washington Times |  Stephen Dinan

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