What Actually Happened to the 1,500 Missing Immigrant Children?

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Over the weekend an immigration story was shared across the U.S. It was a story that certainly caught the attention of more people than an immigration lawyer in California.

In social media posts and news outlets, there were reports that the U.S. government, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), had “lost” nearly 1,500 immigrant children. The various posts and reports escalated from Friday through Sunday, with much uncertainty as to the exact status of these children or how the government managed to lose track of their whereabouts.

Then, as Monday came to a close, people were left with many questions and a lot of concern over government policy regarding minor children crossing the U.S. border. People were asking a wide range of questions from, “How do you lose that many vulnerable children?” to, “What immigration policies led to this problem?”

These questions were politically and socially important to answer. Also, learning the truth behind who these 1,500 children were and the circumstances behind their disappearance in the U.S. would shine new light on other procedures unfolding the current U.S. immigration policy.

The Original Story of These 1,500 Children

The original story about these missing 1,500 children broke back in April. Over a month ago, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services testified before the U.S. Senate. As part of this testimony, Steven Wagner stated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS, did not know the whereabouts or location of 1,475 children who arrived in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors.

More specifically, The Acting Assistant Secretary stated, that the Office of Refugee Resettlement could not, “determine with certainty,” the whereabouts of these unaccompanied minors. This inability to locate the children was more an inability to reach their current caretakers, who may or may not be undocumented individuals themselves.

Soon after this testimony, the New York Times reported the story of 1,500 unaccompanied minors, who arrived at the U.S. border, were placed with family members or sponsors in the country, and now could not be accounted for.

One Month Later a Different Story

While an immigration lawyer in California, or other immigration experts, may have flagged this information months ago, it wasn’t part of the broader national conversation right away. Other major news outlets didn’t highlight the story until the last week in May. In these later reports of the HSS testimony to the Senate, both minor and crucial details were left out. Headlines, and in some cases entire stories, omitted important information, such as the children’s’ status as unaccompanied minors and their subsequent placement with familial sponsors.

The status of these 1,475 children quickly became part of conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Social media users claimed these children were separated from their parents at the border, and an ambiguous photograph of two children behind bars was widely spread. The photo was attributed to these missing children and to the separate policy that families are sometimes separate at the border. This rapid transformation of the original story, sharing of other versions, shows both the impressive speed of social media and its ability to conflate the truth.

Standard Policy for Unaccompanied Minors at the U.S. Border

When a child arrives at the U.S. border, it is standard policy for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to try and place unaccompanied minors, also called unaccompanied alien children (UAC), with a family member or relative already living in the U.S. These family members might be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or even other undocumented individuals. These family members act as sponsors for the unaccompanied minor.

The Department of Health and Humans Services states that once these children are placed with a sponsor, the government no longer has legal responsibility for the children. The phone calls and attempts to contact a sponsor later are merely administrative and suggested. Therefore, the Office of Refugee Resettlement isn’t overly worried about locating these children for both reasons.

As an immigration lawyer in California, it’s easy to understand why some of these sponsors aren’t taking calls from the government. Uncertain status, particularly in this changing immigration climate, could lead to more questions and even involvement by other government agencies. These sponsors are probably screening phone calls, moved locations, or recently changed contact information.

Policy on Minors Arriving with Parents or Family Members

In part, the expansion of another HSS policy, also involving undocumented minor children at the border, was to blame for the spread of misinformation about these 1,500 children. For over a year, HSS has discussed changes in policy, if not practice, regarding when and how minor children are separated from their parents at the U.S. border.

In the past, a minor child would be separated from an adult at the border if the border agent, or later an HSS employee, suspected that the adult was abusive or a trafficker. However, individuals in the new administration see this practice as a way to deter undocumented individuals from trying to cross into the U.S. The relatively new rhetoric around this process has been in the news lately, making it even more difficult for people to separate what was part of one story and what information belonged to another.

Talk to an Immigration Lawyer in California

Immigration policy in the U.S. is constantly shifting, and the last year has presented some considerable new difficulties and changes for undocumented individuals in the U.S. if these changes impact you or someone you know, it is helpful to talk with an immigration lawyer in California.

Our team at Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law works with all immigration issues and questions. We can assist individuals with visas, permanent residency, DACA, and deportation. To learn more about our services in the L.A. area, contact Greco Neyland at 213-295-3500.

What Actually Happened to the 1,500 Missing Immigrant Children?

inne-rpage-seperator

Over the weekend an immigration story was shared across the U.S. It was a story that certainly caught the attention of more people than an immigration lawyer in California.

In social media posts and news outlets, there were reports that the U.S. government, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), had “lost” nearly 1,500 immigrant children. The various posts and reports escalated from Friday through Sunday, with much uncertainty as to the exact status of these children or how the government managed to lose track of their whereabouts.

Then, as Monday came to a close, people were left with many questions and a lot of concern over government policy regarding minor children crossing the U.S. border. People were asking a wide range of questions from, “How do you lose that many vulnerable children?” to, “What immigration policies led to this problem?”

These questions were politically and socially important to answer. Also, learning the truth behind who these 1,500 children were and the circumstances behind their disappearance in the U.S. would shine new light on other procedures unfolding the current U.S. immigration policy.

The Original Story of These 1,500 Children

The original story about these missing 1,500 children broke back in April. Over a month ago, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services testified before the U.S. Senate. As part of this testimony, Steven Wagner stated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS, did not know the whereabouts or location of 1,475 children who arrived in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors.

More specifically, The Acting Assistant Secretary stated, that the Office of Refugee Resettlement could not, “determine with certainty,” the whereabouts of these unaccompanied minors. This inability to locate the children was more an inability to reach their current caretakers, who may or may not be undocumented individuals themselves.

Soon after this testimony, the New York Times reported the story of 1,500 unaccompanied minors, who arrived at the U.S. border, were placed with family members or sponsors in the country, and now could not be accounted for.

One Month Later a Different Story

While an immigration lawyer in California, or other immigration experts, may have flagged this information months ago, it wasn’t part of the broader national conversation right away. Other major news outlets didn’t highlight the story until the last week in May. In these later reports of the HSS testimony to the Senate, both minor and crucial details were left out. Headlines, and in some cases entire stories, omitted important information, such as the children’s’ status as unaccompanied minors and their subsequent placement with familial sponsors.

The status of these 1,475 children quickly became part of conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Social media users claimed these children were separated from their parents at the border, and an ambiguous photograph of two children behind bars was widely spread. The photo was attributed to these missing children and to the separate policy that families are sometimes separate at the border. This rapid transformation of the original story, sharing of other versions, shows both the impressive speed of social media and its ability to conflate the truth.

Standard Policy for Unaccompanied Minors at the U.S. Border

When a child arrives at the U.S. border, it is standard policy for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to try and place unaccompanied minors, also called unaccompanied alien children (UAC), with a family member or relative already living in the U.S. These family members might be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or even other undocumented individuals. These family members act as sponsors for the unaccompanied minor.

The Department of Health and Humans Services states that once these children are placed with a sponsor, the government no longer has legal responsibility for the children. The phone calls and attempts to contact a sponsor later are merely administrative and suggested. Therefore, the Office of Refugee Resettlement isn’t overly worried about locating these children for both reasons.

As an immigration lawyer in California, it’s easy to understand why some of these sponsors aren’t taking calls from the government. Uncertain status, particularly in this changing immigration climate, could lead to more questions and even involvement by other government agencies. These sponsors are probably screening phone calls, moved locations, or recently changed contact information.

Policy on Minors Arriving with Parents or Family Members

In part, the expansion of another HSS policy, also involving undocumented minor children at the border, was to blame for the spread of misinformation about these 1,500 children. For over a year, HSS has discussed changes in policy, if not practice, regarding when and how minor children are separated from their parents at the U.S. border.

In the past, a minor child would be separated from an adult at the border if the border agent, or later an HSS employee, suspected that the adult was abusive or a trafficker. However, individuals in the new administration see this practice as a way to deter undocumented individuals from trying to cross into the U.S. The relatively new rhetoric around this process has been in the news lately, making it even more difficult for people to separate what was part of one story and what information belonged to another.

Talk to an Immigration Lawyer in California

Immigration policy in the U.S. is constantly shifting, and the last year has presented some considerable new difficulties and changes for undocumented individuals in the U.S. if these changes impact you or someone you know, it is helpful to talk with an immigration lawyer in California.

Our team at Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law works with all immigration issues and questions. We can assist individuals with visas, permanent residency, DACA, and deportation. To learn more about our services in the L.A. area, contact Greco Neyland at 213-295-3500.

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