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Unaccompanied Alien Children are Being Placed with Unrelated Sponsors

In little over two years, the Biden administration released over 24,000 border-crossing minors to an “unrelated sponsor,” a number representing over half of all 37,088 minors released to nonrelatives from January 2015 through May 2023.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

By: Virginia Allen, The Daily Signal

The New York Times has released a trove of raw government data on the unaccompanied alien children who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. Among over 10,000 pages of information is data on the number of children who crossed the border into America without an adult and then were handed over to someone other than a family member.

From January 2015 through May 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released tens of thousands of minors who crossed the border illegally to sponsors who weren’t an immediate or distant relative, raising concerns about human trafficking and forced labor.

“More children are crossing the border on their own than ever before, and thousands are ending up doing dangerous, illegal jobs,” New York Times reporter Hannah Dreier wrote on X in a thread sharing the numbers with the public.

The Times sued the government to gain access to the records, which reveal more than 550,000 minors crossed the border illegally between 2015, halfway through Barack Obama’s second term as president, through May 2023, about two years and four months into Joe Biden’s presidency. From 2017 through 2020, Donald Trump was president.

The data includes when each child arrived in the U.S., each child’s sex and country of origin, date released to a sponsor, relationship to that sponsor, and the ZIP code where the sponsor lives.

The data reveals that 37,088 unaccompanied alien children were released to an “unrelated sponsor,” 24,253 of which were released during Biden’s presidency between Jan. 20, 2021, and May 25, 2023.

“Americans have the right to know that criminal cartels are bringing unaccompanied minors into our country as a result of President Biden’s failed border policies,” Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., told The Daily Signal. “The president must answer to the American people as to why he has failed to secure the border and been unable to protect these children from harm.”

The minors have been released to sponsors across all 50 states and a map created by the Times shows where the children, at least initially, were sent.

A data map created by The New York Times shows where unaccompanied alien children have been released within the U.S., per 100,000 residents.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for placing unaccompanied alien children with a sponsor in America.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, it released children, in order of preference, to a “parent; legal guardian; an adult relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or first cousin); an adult individual or entity designated by the parent or legal guardian (through a signed declaration or other document that ORR determines is sufficient to establish the signatory’s parental/guardian relationship); a licensed program willing to accept legal custody; or an adult individual or entity seeking custody when it appears that there is no other likely alternative to long term ORR care and custody.”

In 2023, the Times reported that although the Department of Health and Human Services checks on all unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally “by calling them a month after they begin living with their sponsors,” data obtained by the newspaper “showed that over the last two years, the agency could not reach more than 85,000 children.”

In response to the data published by the Times, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., told The Daily Signal: “President Biden’s border invasion is not only endangering every American, but it is leaving illegal alien children subject to trafficking and forced labor at the hands of the Mexican cartels.”

“Instead of passing phony, nonbinding resolutions about President Biden’s refusal to use his existing authority to close the border,” Good said, “Republicans should have insisted on HR 2 being included on a must-pass legislative vehicle.”

The House passed HR 2, the Secure the Border Act, in May 2023. The bill would reinstate Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, end the “catch and release” policy, and resume construction of the border wall begun by Trump and stopped by Biden. The Senate has yet to take up the bill.

The New York Times reported on much of the released data and stories of unaccompanied alien children in several reports from February to December 2023. Those stories and the raw data may be found here.

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