The US government cannot account for nearly 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children it had placed in the homes of sponsors, but denies responsibility, according to a report.
Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, disclosed the number to a Senate subcommittee last month, CNN reported on Sunday.
Wagner testified that during the last three months of 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) lost track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children it had placed in the homes of sponsors.
The ORR is a program of the Administration for Children and Families overseeing the care of unaccompanied minors.
Wagner's statement has attracted more attention amid reports that immigrant children as young as 18 months have been separated from their parents and placed into government-run shelters.
The Department of Homeland Security referred more than 40,000 such children to the ORR during the 2017 fiscal year.
Between October and December 2017, the ORR reached out to 7,635 unaccompanied children to check on them, but "was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 children," Wagner told lawmakers.
However, he said the Department of Health and Human Services was not legally responsible for those children.
"I understand that it has been HHS's long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care," Wagner said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump appeared to be blaming Democrats for the hugely controversial policy created by his own administration.
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
Despite Trump’s statement, there is no law requiring immigrant children to be separated from their parents.
No law requires this — separating parents and children is your administration’s choice.— ACLU (@ACLU) May 26, 2018
Hundreds of kids as young as 18 months are in danger of suffering lifelong trauma.
We won’t let you shift the blame or use families as bargaining chips for your wall. #EndFamilySeparation https://t.co/ixRFgPgCq6
The policy was enacted by the Trump administration and went into effect this month. The program was first underscored in a speech by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early May.
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