Sending Office: Honorable Yvette D. Clarke
Sent By:
Harry.Baumgarten@mail.house.gov

Co-signors: De Lauro, Pingree, McGovern, M. Thompson, Visclosky, Moulton, Jackson Lee, Norton, Espaillat, McCollum

Deadline: COB Thursday, June 14

Dear Colleague:

As you may have read, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement recently conducted a survey of the 7,635 unaccompanied children placed with sponsors, the majority of whom were close or extended family. Of those children,
the whereabouts of 1,475 could not be ascertained. The most likely reason for this appears to be that sponsors were simply unwilling to participate in the surveys. However, in 2014 eight unaccompanied children were placed in the hands of human traffickers
who forced them to work for 12 hours each day in deplorable conditions on an egg farm in Ohio. The failure to fully account for these 1,475 children leaves open the possibility that they too may be under the care of unscrupulous individuals.

To address this concern, I will be sending a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar inquiring about their obligations to children who are placed with sponsors.
The letter specifically asks about their obligation toward unaccompanied children, the source of such obligation, what their agencies are doing to prevent human traffickers from exploiting unaccompanied children, and what Congress can do to aid in such efforts.
We recognize that sponsors are screened before being placed in charge of unaccompanied children and that the vast majority of children are accounted for. However, more must be done to ensure that unaccompanied children do not fall prey to human traffickers.

For questions or to sign on to this letter, please contact Harry Baumgarten on my staff. He can be reached at
Harry.Baumgarten@mail.house.gov or by phone at (202) 225-6231.

Sincerely,

Yvette D. Clarke
Member of Congress

 

 

June __, 2018

Kirstjen Nielsen
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
300 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20528

Alex M. Azar, II
Secretary
U.S. Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Azar,

We are writing in regard to the 1,475 unaccompanied children whose whereabouts could not be ascertained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s October-December 2017 efforts to locate them. We understand that the Department of Health and Human Services conducts
background checks on all prospective sponsors, that the vast majority of unaccompanied children are placed in the care of an immediate or extended family member, and that most children have been accounted for. However, we are also aware of the fact that children
have previously been trafficked to unsafe and illegal working conditions where they were forced to work 12 hour days, six days a week, for as little as $2 a day. This makes us concerned that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is still not doing as much as
it should to prevent children from falling prey to human traffickers.

In 2016, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing on this subject. Following that hearing, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services promised to develop a joint plan to address the problem
by February 2017. However, over a year later, the agencies have yet to address this concern and issue the promised plan. We therefore request swift answers to the following questions to help us better understand what your agencies are doing to protect unaccompanied
children from exploitation:

  1. What is the legal obligation of your agencies toward unaccompanied children who are placed with sponsors?
  2. What is the source of this obligation?
  3. What are your agencies doing to prevent unaccompanied children from being abducted by human traffickers and others who seek to exploit them?
  4. How can Congress support efforts to prevent unaccompanied children from being abducted?

We appreciate your agencies efforts to prevent unaccompanied children from being abducted and urge you to do more to prevent this from ever occurring. We kindly request a response by July 15, 2018.

To follow up on this letter, please contact Harry Baumgarten in the office of Representative Yvette D. Clarke at
Harry.Baumgarten@mail.house.gov or by phone at (202) 225-6231.

Sincerely,

 

Yvette D. Clarke
Member of Congress

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: HealthCare, Homeland Security, Immigration

icon eDC logo e-Dear Colleague version 2.0