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Sean D. Reyes
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AG Reyes Demands Answers from Biden Administration on Trafficking of Migrant Children

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes took the lead in sending a letter, signed by 21 other Attorneys General, demanding Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray address a recent report issued by the HHS Office of Inspector General that found unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the federal government are being released into unsafe situations, including into human trafficking.

In the letter, the Attorneys General expressed concern over the Biden Administration’s recent revelation that it cannot locate 85,000 migrant children for which it is responsible. The letter cites a February 2023 New York Times report that states many of these children have been forced into labor for debilitating hours under dangerous conditions, often in violation of child-labor laws and resulting in grave injury and death. Others, the letter notes, are sex trafficked.

The February 2023 New York Times investigation revealed that the federal government knowingly allowed these unaccompanied minors into the country and released them out of the federal government’s custody without conducting proper vetting and safety checks and, in fact, “regularly ignored obvious signs of labor exploitation.”

In a report issued this month, HHS’ Office of Inspector General confirms and documents many of the issues found in the New York Times investigation, admitting that more than one-third of children’s case files were flagged with safety concerns. In some instances, “address checks conducted by case managers yielded results such as vacant houses or nonresidential addresses, but no home studies were conducted before children were released to these sponsors.”

The Attorneys General note that Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, recognizing this problem more than three months ago, asked the Department of Homeland Security for its plan to address this growing crisis but has received no response. Now, the Attorney Generals demand the Administration account for these reports in writing by May 1, 2024.

“Our states have a strong interest in enforcing state and federal law within our borders,” the Attorneys General write, “We are also dedicated to fighting against human trafficking and are outraged that victims now include children that were in the federal government’s care…. Missing children must be identified, and potential sponsors must be vetted.”

Attorneys General from the following states joined General Reyes in sending the letter: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Read the letter here.