Lawmakers Want to Know Where Unaccompanied Minors Being Sent

Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 08:57 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Lawmakers want to know where the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally since January are being housed by the Obama administration, The Washington Times reported.

"We're getting almost no information, and there is all kinds of conflicting information," said Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, according to the Times.

Aside from three temporary shelters at U.S. military bases — Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma — the administration will not identify where the 53,324 unaccompanied children have been sent, according to the Times.

"We do not identify the approximately 100 regular/permanent Unaccompanied Alien Children program shelters for the safety and security of minors and staff at the facilities," Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director of communication for HHS' Administration for Children and Families, told the newspaper in an email.

Wolfe said that 48,805 children have been released and 6,994 remain in the UAC program. Those youths, which include some taken into custody in 2013, have not been placed with families, according to the Times.

However, it's not known where the released children went and where the minors still in custody are being detained.

While the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes control of the children after they are turned over from Customs and Border Protection, has posted on its website the number of minors released to sponsors by state, the cities and towns where they have been sent is a closely held secret.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam sent President Barack Obama a letter last week demanding to know where the 760 children sent to his state are living, The Tennessean reported.

Characterizing the secrecy behind the relocations as "unacceptable," Haslam wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, demanding to know if the children received medical screenings before arriving in the Volunteer State as well as the immigration status of the sponsors, typically a family member, with whom they are living. The administration has acknowledged that the sponsor does not have to be a citizen or a legal resident.

Amid protests from residents and local officials, the government has had to scrap plans to set up temporary shelters in Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and California, the Times reported. Instead, the use of military bases as temporary shelters has been expanded.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Obama is considering setting up a limited refugee program for young people in Central America, based in Honduras, which would allow them to apply for entry before just showing up on the border. Honduran children make up the largest number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S. border since October, according to the Journal.

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