By: Jennie Taer and Jason Piccolo, Daily Caller News Foundation
A whistleblower set to testify before a House subcommittee Wednesday revealed that law enforcement is not involved in vetting sponsors of migrant children in an exclusive interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Health and Human Services (HHS) whistleblower Tara Lee Rodas conveyed concern about releasing children to unvetted sponsors. She said the employees at the Emergency Intake Site did not have access to critical vetting tools such as National Crime Information Center, a tool used for decades by law enforcement to determine the criminal history of an individual.
“Because there’s no way to know the criminal history of someone who has no legal presence without proper vetting. HHS is not a law enforcement organization. I mean, how are we going to know if these are trustworthy people? We must have proper vetting and that’s the only way. It has to be law enforcement. The contractors, they’re just regular people, the case managers, they don’t have a law enforcement background. They can’t pull up a history they can’t know if someone is a registered sex offender or not. Only law enforcement will know that,” Rodas said.
Rodas will tell her story to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement hearing titled “The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children.” Rodas served as a federal employee for 20 years, with 17 years in the Inspector General community.
In 2021, Rodas voluntarily deployed to the Emergency Intake Center in Pomona, California, to assist with the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.
“When I stepped on the plane from Washington, D.C., to ultimately be deployed to Pomona, I thought that I was helping reunite children with their families. I went in support of the Biden administration, I answered their urgent call to help with the border crisis,” Rodas told the DCNF.
Federal authorities at the southern border have seen a surge in migrant children crossing without any adults. In fiscal year 2022, Border Patrol agents recorded roughly 150,000 encounters of unaccompanied child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
The children are quickly placed in the care of HHS under its office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), where they’re released to sponsors. Rodas said HHS typically released children within 10 to 14 days of arrival to an intake center.
“But no reasonable person could sit back and watch children be trafficked, no reasonable person could sit back and say, ‘I’m going to be OK with children being raped, children being in these horrible working conditions.’ I did not know one child had ever been trafficked through the program. I now know that this has been going on for a decade,” Rodas said.
Rodas also spoke to retaliation she’s faced for speaking out, saying HHS walked her off site when she provided information to the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.
“I would absolutely do it again. I do not regret it. It’s been a very hard and painful journey. Scary. I was nearly hyperventilating by the time they’re walking off the site telling me that my whole career could be going up in flames, that I could potentially be sent home [and] that I was under investigation,” Rodas said.
“They were trying to discredit me after my long service, I cannot as an IG professional imagine anything worse than being discredited. And so it was a scary thing. But the thing that was worse than that was knowing that children were being put in victim situations and I couldn’t stand for it. I just couldn’t, so I was willing to do whatever it took to tell the truth. It’s been a very hard journey, a very hard journey. But I was looking at the faces of the children. I’ve heard young girls screaming for their mom in home country. I watched children have panic attacks. Children had to be put on suicide watch. They don’t know where they’re going. This is just unacceptable.”
“My life will never be the same. I’m OK with that. If Congress does something, they’ve got to do something [now],” Rodas said. “They have to take action. swift action must be taken to safeguard the lives of these children.”
HHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.