- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2022

Rep. Michael Burgess warned the Biden administration that it is endangering children and may be breaking the law after many illegal immigrant juveniles have gone “missing” in Houston.

Mr. Burgess, Texas Republican, said he was alarmed by a Reuters report earlier this month that said roughly 48 illegal immigrant children went missing from the Houston homes where the federal Health and Human Services Department had placed them with sponsors. Another nine children ran away from HHS-operated shelters.

HHS began a frantic effort to track the children. As of late August, 46 of them had been “confirmed safe,” Reuters reported.

Mr. Burgess, in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra this week, demanded quick answers on what is going on, saying there were signs the department was putting kids in unsafe situations.

“These patterns have been brought to light by the Houston police chief after noticing an increase in missing UACs from the homes of their U.S. sponsors,” the congressman wrote. “Of even greater concern, dozens of these children have been released to similar addresses.”

The Washington Times has reached out to HHS for comment.

UACs, or Unaccompanied Alien Children, are juveniles who jump the border without a parent.

Under the law, UACs are to be quickly transferred from Homeland Security’s custody to HHS, which places the children in shelters until sponsors can be found.

Sponsors are often relatives — usually in the country illegally themselves — but can be just about anyone willing to take a child. Some parents will send their children to the border as UACs, with names, addresses and phone numbers for potential sponsors tucked in the children’s clothing.

But there have been horrific abuses.

The Times reported last month on a case out of Illinois where a 10-year-old girl was placed with a purported aunt who turned out not to be related. The fraudulent aunt now stands accused of terrifying abuses, including stabbing the girl and allowing male members of her household to repeatedly rape the young girl.

UACs began to surge into the U.S. in 2014, and there have been subsequent waves, but the Biden administration has shattered all previous records with more than a quarter of a million UACs nabbed at the border in just 18 months.

Overwhelmed by the numbers, the Biden administration tossed some of the safety checks the Trump administration had put in place to try to better vet sponsors.

In his letter, Mr. Burgess said the fact that the same addresses kept popping up as placement locations in Houston should have been a warning sign about possible exploitation.

He also questioned whether those placements were even legal.

“I am not certain that releasing UACs to non-parent sponsors complies with current law,” he wrote.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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