HHS Fails to Protect Illegal Immigrant Minors from Sexual Abuse at U.S.-Funded Shelters
June 23, 2020 | Judicial Watch
The federal agency that placed illegal alien minors rescued from “persistent violence in Central America” in abusive homes is under fire again for failing to protect them from sexual misconduct at facilities where the U.S. government houses them until they are relocated with a sponsor. It marks the latest scandal involving the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) costly programs to accommodate underaged illegal immigrants upon their arrival in the country. During a recent six-month period alone, there were more than 750 incidents involving sexual misconduct at facilities housing minor detainees, according to a troubling HHS Inspector General report made public this month.
HHS’s well-funded Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is charged with providing care to illegal immigrants under the age of 18, known as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC). Under the Obama administration the influx, mostly from Central America, was huge and the government housed tens of thousands of UACs during any given period. HHS funds around 170 state-licensed care facilities to house the minors when they arrive from foreign countries south of the border. The recently published audit examines only 45 care facilities between January and July 2018. The investigation was launched because in recent years ORR-funded facilities have reported allegations of sexual and physical abuse of minors in their care, some resulting in criminal convictions. Many of the government-supported facilities have failed in their efforts to protect UACs under U.S. supervision, according to the probe. “Some investigations resulted in criminal convictions of facility employees,” the HHS IG report states.
For example, in one case a facility employee was convicted of sexually abusing seven minors and in another an employee was convicted of attempting to coerce a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and exchanging explicit videos and images with other minors. During the six-month probe outlined in the HHS IG report, investigators found 761 incidents that described conduct of a sexual nature. Reports for most (704) of these incidents involved conduct between minors, fewer (48) involved conduct by an adult against a minor, and the remaining (9) incidents had an unknown perpetrator. Examples included in the document include a shelter staff member fondling a minor’s genitals on multiple occasions, another staffer repeatedly flirting with a minor and a UAC touching another’s buttocks with a spoon. Because the taxpayer-funded shelters do not identify, keep track of or report activity involving sexual abuse there is no system in place to efficiently respond or even detect the “concerning trends,” investigators write. “Further, facilities described challenges with staffing youth care workers— who are essential to preventing, detecting, and reporting incidents—and difficulties determining which incidents should be reported to ORR,” the report states.
HHS has committed other serious transgressions involving the government’s huge illegal alien housing program for minors. Under Obama, when the UAC influx was at its peak, HHS placed many of the kids in abusive homes. Some were forced to become prostitutes or personal slaves, according to a shocking Senate investigation that ignited bipartisan fury at the time. It was ironic because the Obama administration claimed that it rescued the tens of thousands of UACs from “persistent violence in Central America” only to make their lives worse in the U.S. Some of the illegal immigrant youngsters ended up with human traffickers while others were exploited for their labor and dozens were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work as practical slaves. In one case six Guatemalan minors were placed with human traffickers that forced them to live in a decrepit trailer and work 12 hours a day on egg farms in the rural Ohio town of Marion. Another Guatemalan boy was forced to work 12 hours a day for his Virginia sponsor to repay a $6,500 smuggling debt and a boy from El Salvador was released to his abusive father even though the kid told authorities the father had a history of beating him.
A few years later, HHS’s ORR doled out $125 million to provide delinquent, gangbanger and pregnant illegal immigrant minors with special care. The money went to nonprofits, local governments, small businesses, school districts and other assorted entities to take care of the UACs once released from federal government custody. Services include medical care and special housing arrangements for delinquent, pregnant and gang-affiliated teens as well as long-term counseling. Taxpayer-funded residential accommodations feature a heightened level of supervision for children with delinquent behaviors, including gang involvement, serious behavioral problems, and/or who present a low to moderate flight risk. Long-term foster care funded by Uncle Sam is catered to “pregnant/parenting teens and/or UACs who are especially vulnerable or with other needs.” The government will provide “residential care services” until the UAC is released from ORR custody, turns 18 or gets deported.