Oklahoma Office of Attorney General

02/27/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/27/2024 23:32

Drummond demands answers from Biden Administration on migrant child trafficking

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 27, 2024) -- Attorney General Gentner Drummond has sent a letter demanding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and FBI address a recent HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that found unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the federal government are being released into unsafe situations, including into human trafficking.

"It is inexcusable that the Biden Administration is failing to provide proper oversight and protection for tens of thousands of vulnerable children," Drummond said. "The situation along the nation's southwest border is clearly out of control. The disastrous policies that have led to this chaos have devastating consequences for vulnerable migrant children. The failure to secure our border and enforce the laws passed by Congress endangers public safety in Oklahoma, and now we know this failure endangers the welfare of children as well."

Attorneys general from 21 other states joined the letter, which expresses concern over the White House's recent revelation that it cannot locate 85,000 migrant children for which it is responsible. The letter cites a February 2023 New York Times report that states many of these children have been forced into laboring for debilitating hours under dangerous conditions, often in violation of child-labor laws and resulting in grave injury and death. Others, the letter notes, are being sex trafficked.

The Times investigation revealed that the federal government knowingly allowed these unaccompanied minors into the country and released them out of federal custody without conducting proper vetting and safety checks and in fact, "regularly ignored obvious signs of labor exploitation."

In a report issued this month, HHS' OIG confirms and documents many of the issues found in the newspaper's investigation, admitting that more than one-third of children's case files were flagged with safety concerns. In some instances, "address checks conducted by case managers yielded results such as vacant houses or nonresidential addresses, but no home studies were conducted before children were released to these sponsors."

The attorneys general note that Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, recognizing this problem more than three months ago, asked the Department of Homeland Security for its plan to address this growing crisis but has not received a response. Now, the coalition of attorneys general are demanding the administration account for these reports in writing by May 1.

"Our states have a strong interest in enforcing state and federal law within our borders," the letter states. "We are also dedicated to fighting against human trafficking and are outraged that victims now include children that were in the federal government's care. Missing children must be identified and potential sponsors must be vetted."

Attorneys general from the following states also joined the letter: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Read the letter at https://www.oag.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc766/f/documents/2024/02-22_-_ia_...