WASHINGTON — Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) today delivered opening remarks at today’s subcommittee hearing titled “Oversight of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children Program.” Subcommittee Chairman Grothman emphasized how President Biden’s disastrous border policies have incentivized unprecedented levels of illegal border crossings and led to historic encounters of unaccompanied alien children that overwhelmed the Office of Refugee Resettlement and endangered migrant children.
Below are Subcommittee Chairman Grothman’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
Good morning, and welcome.
To the witness, Director Marcos, thank you for your attendance and participation in today’s hearing on ensuring the safety of Unaccompanied Alien Children.
President Biden’s open borders agenda has created a humanitarian crisis that encourages the trafficking of migrant children into the United States.
Since the first day he assumed office, President Biden has worked to roll back the deterrence focused policies that worked under the Trump Administration to maintain operational control of the southwest border.
As a federal judge recently commented, the Biden Administration has “effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country . . .”
The judge stated that the actions of the Biden Administration were like “posting a flashing Come In, We’re Open sign at the southern border.”
In Fiscal Year 2021, the Department of Homeland Security made over 1.7 million encounters with inadmissible aliens on the southwest border.
In Fiscal Year 2022, that number rose even further to nearly 2.4 million.
Cartels have exploited President Biden’s disastrous border policies to create one of the largest human trafficking and smuggling operations in the world.
Cartels charge illegal border crossers a fee for the right to cross through Mexico and across our southwest border.
Border Patrol Agents have told me that the cartels charge 5-10 thousand to individuals from the western hemisphere and 18 thousand or more to individuals from Asia, including Chinese nationals, for the right to cross our southwest border.
While most illegal border crossers are single adults, many are children—more than 250,000 in the past two years.
And the cartels charge them and their families money as well.
The Florida Department of Children and Families recently published results from interviews conducted with 49 unaccompanied children about how they entered the United States.
The interviewed children knew little about the individuals who brought them to the southwest border; they described the individuals as “Coyotes.”
One child detailed that during her journey to the southwest border several members of her group were robbed, attacked by gang members, decapitated, or raped. The child disclosed that she was among the victims of rape.
Again, we have a humanitarian crisis along the border that this Administration created.
The Department of Health and Human Services has a statutory obligation to care for unaccompanied alien children referred into its custody by the Department of Homeland Security.
It must also ensure that these children are placed into the care of appropriate sponsors in the United States who are capable of providing for their physical and mental well-being.
All too often, that is not happening.
Instead, reports indicate that Secretary Becerra has pushed to instill a culture at ORR that prioritizes “assembly line” speed in releasing unaccompanied alien children to poorly vetted sponsors across the country to the detriment of children’s safety.
Director Marcos’s predecessor was reportedly threatened with dismissal for what Secretary Becerra considered to be insufficient numerical discharges of unaccompanied children in ORR custody. She resigned shortly after.
Reports reveal that many of these poorly vetted sponsors exploit the children once in their care.
For example, a Florida Statewide Grand Jury identified several abuses of migrant children in sponsors’ care.
The Grand Jury found evidence of unaccompanied children fleeing sponsors who were selling them into sex.
One was found to have been offered for sex to men by her “Aunt” whom she’d never met before.
One unaccompanied child reported that their sponsor had previously been sent to prison for felony battery of a child.
They found that unaccompanied children were dropping out of school to work and pay cartel debts.
A recent New York Times report indicates that nearly two-thirds of all UAC work illegal full-time jobs, likely to pay off their debts to cartels for smuggling them into the country and to sponsors for providing basic necessities such as food and housing.
Today, we will examine how unprecedented levels of illegal border crossings, incentivized by the Biden Administration’s policies, have led to historic encounters of unaccompanied alien children that overwhelmed ORR and endangered migrant children.
We will also examine ORR’s efforts moving forward to ensure adequate care and safe discharge of these children into the care of appropriately vetted sponsors.