- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spanish-language media and human rights activists are actively educating illegal immigrants on how to break the law, avoid immigration agents and remain in the country even after a judge has ordered them to be kicked out, a top Obama administration official testified to Congress on Tuesday.

Sometimes families shield the children by refusing to open the door to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and other times they move the children to other locations, breaking their agreement with the Obama administration to notify the government of the children’s whereabouts.

In as many as 75 percent of cases, the children are actively hidden from agents sent out to try to deport them, Thomas Homan, the head of deportation operations at ICE, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Even though we’re out looking for them, it’s getting more difficult, based on everything I just told you, to actually apprehend these people and remove them,” he said.

Overall, only about 3 percent of the more than 125,000 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who surged across the border in the last 30 months have been deported, as Mr. Homan and his agents struggle with the sheer size of the population and the difficulties in tracking them down.

The Department of Homeland Security last month began trying to target children and families for deportation, working about 1,800 leads. But only 121 were actually rounded up.

Mr. Homan said that’s because when they show up at the address where the children are supposed to be staying, usually the agents leave empty-handed.

“For the number of UACs we arrested since January, three times as many weren’t at the address they were supposed to be at, never were or weren’t there any longer. The Spanish media, Spanish newspapers, a lot of NGOs are educating these folks on how not to comply with law enforcement,” Mr. Homan said. “There’s been many situations where we’ve been at the residence, we know they’re there, but they won’t open the door. My officers don’t have the authority, of course, to go into that house.”

Mr. Homan didn’t single out any specific Spanish-language outlets of nongovernmental organizations that were encouraging the disobedience.

Many of the children who have been ordered deported never even bothered to show up for their court hearings, meaning they are sentenced in absentia.

The children have proved to be a major headache for the Obama administration.

Not only did the surge take Homeland Security by surprise in 2014, but it overwhelmed the resources of social workers at the Department of Health and Human Services.

A new report released this week by the Government Accountability Office found that HHS, which tries to quickly release the children to sponsors in the U.S., didn’t have strong enough checks to make sure the children weren’t put in dangerous situations.

HHS didn’t do site visits or other follow-up to make sure the children were being properly cared for, and a top department official testified Tuesday that he could not assure the Senate that the children weren’t being abused.

“I could not make a statement like that,” Mark Greenberg, acting assistant secretary for children and families, said as he struggled to defend his agency’s troubled record.

In a hearing last month, Mr. Greenberg said the children weren’t his responsibility once they are turned over to sponsors. On Tuesday he tried to moderate that claim, saying he and his social workers are working for the children’s welfare.

“We are committed to putting in place and having in place the protections and safeguards that are crucial for these children,” he said.

Mr. Greenberg said they rely on contractors to conduct the reviews of sponsors and homes where the children are to be sent.

A review by the Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations found that some of the children were turned over to sexual predators or put into forced labor. In those cases the sponsors — and the children themselves, often at their parents’ coaching — lied about the sponsors’ relationships.

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