- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said Tuesday that children taken into U.S. custody after illegally crossing the border are not “lost” but are placed with a sponsor.

“They have been placed, in the vast majority of cases, with parents or close relatives. So when they have a sponsor, we release them to a sponsor. Therefore, they’re not lost,” Mr. Hargan said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”

Mr. Hargan said HHS then follows up with a phone call, but if the call goes unanswered, then critics say the child is “lost.” He said this is not the case, however, and could just be an instance of a missed call.

“The only reason why people believe falsely that the children are lost is because that sponsor does not answer the phone when we make the call after 30 days,” he said.

In cases where there is concern about the child’s welfare, Mr. Hargan said his agency doesn’t have much authority to follow-up or investigate the child’s whereabouts if calls to the sponsor are unanswered. He said they can refer the case to local authorities, but there is no set protocol.

“We don’t have the authority to go beyond that to track the children down or return them to our custody. That’s not part of the legal authorities that Congress has given us,” he said.

The issue of undocumented children entering the U.S. became a hot topic when it was reported last month that over 1,400 children had been misplaced by the government. The issue of separating parents and children who cross the border illegally has furthered that discussion, prompting President Trump to urge lawmakers to change the law.

• Sally Persons can be reached at spersons@washingtontimes.com.

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