Watch Senator Rosen’s full remarks here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen questioned Mark Morgan, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), about reports that CBP has deported thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S. southern border, instead of transferring them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, as required by federal anti-trafficking law.
“On March 21, 2020, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and DHS [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] suspended admission of certain immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, purportedly due to the health concerns of COVID-19,” said Senator Rosen. “Reports indicate that under that new policy, DHS has deported nearly 3,000 unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S. border, instead of transferring them to Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR] custody, as required by federal anti-trafficking law. Removal places these children at risk of human trafficking, persecution, and other grave harm.”
“Is CBP transferring unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S. southern border to ORR custody and screening them, as required by law?” Senator Rosen asked Acting Commissioner Morgan.
“Do you know how many unaccompanied children you’ve removed since March 21st [when the new entry restrictions were implemented]?” Senator Rosen continued. “And while you’re looking for those, do you have the number of how many [unaccompanied children] were not screened for trafficking or protection concerns?”
BACKGROUND: The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) directs DHS to ensure that all unaccompanied children be screened by DHS for possible human trafficking. TVPRA mandates that an unaccompanied child from countries other than Mexico or Canada be transferred to the care and custody of ORR, typically within a 72-hour period, for care and further screening, and then be immediately placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.