A new report based on Health and Human Services data has revealed that the United States has spent $13 billion sponsoring unaccompanied minors at the border since 2012.
This comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 150,000 unaccompanied minor encounters at the southwest border in 2022 alone, a record high. Last year, the U.S. spent $2.1 billion sponsoring unaccompanied minors, which averages approximately $18,000 per minor encounter at the border.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), unaccompanied minors are those who have “no lawful immigration status in the United States,” are “under 18 years of age,” and have “no parent or legal guardian in the United States or no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.” ORR is responsible for “making and implementing placement decisions” and “ensuring that the interests of the child are considered in decisions related to care and custody.”
Despite the money spent sponsoring unaccompanied minors at the border, some reports indicate that as many as 85,000 unaccompanied minors are missing and unaccounted for by the federal government. Unaccompanied minors are “especially vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.”
The ORR coordinates with several different care providers that they also fund. The office’s budget has increased substantially since 2017, when it gave out $950 million in grants. The budget for fiscal year 2023, meanwhile, is $2.7 billion. While most spending, $7.8 billion, took place in Texas, another $1.4 billion was spent in New York and $660 million in Florida.
Southwest Key Programs, Baptist Child and Family Services, and Health and Human Services are among the entities that have received grants from the ORR. However, reports have found that some unaccompanied minors have been forced to work dangerous food processing factory jobs in violation of child labor laws. A Florida Grand Jury report even accused the Biden administration of “facilitating the forced migration, sale, and abuse of foreign children.”
A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General also blasted the agency for not conducting background checks on employees and contractors responsible for the wellbeing of unaccompanied minors.