FBI must probe ‘modern-day slavery’ – lawmaker
The administration of US President Joe Biden is “morally responsible” for the fate of an estimated 85,000 migrant children who have allegedly gone missing in the US after arriving at the southern border as unaccompanied minors, US Senator Josh Hawley has claimed in a letter demanding an FBI probe of the matter.
“The FBI must mount a full-scale effort to locate these missing children and to bring to justice the criminals who are holding them in modern-day slavery,” Hawley said on Thursday in a letter to the agency.
He added that the FBI also must investigate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “for their role in facilitating the exploitation of these children, in violation of the law.”
Illegal border crossings and apprehensions of unaccompanied minors have surged to all-time highs since Biden took office in January 2021 and quickly pledged not to expel children who arrive at the border without their families. Instead, the children are sent to live with adult sponsors in the US interior, regardless of whether they have a legitimate asylum claim.
Republican lawmakers have blamed Biden’s policies for encouraging the trafficking of migrant children into the US, creating a humanitarian crisis.
Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said an estimated 345,000 unaccompanied minors have come across the border since early 2021. The HHS has apparently lost touch with as many as 85,000 of those children. “Thousands of these children are now the prey of child labor criminals,” he said. “The Biden administration is morally responsible for their fate.”
In addition to letting migrant children enter the US, rather than requiring them to wait out their immigration proceedings on the other side of the border, the administration loosened the vetting process for the sponsors with whom the minors are placed, Hawley claimed. At the same time, whistleblowers who raise concerns over the policies have faced retaliation.
“As a result, thousands of children have been handed over to modern-day slave traders,” Hawley said. “They are forced into factory work under punishing conditions. They are forced to make auto parts, process meat in slaughterhouses, and reroof houses.”
They are denied food, education, and sometimes fear for their lives. They suffer sexual violence. In a country that claims to value the rule of law and the protection of children, this is unconscionable.
The FBI must make the missing children a top priority, the senator said. He demanded that the agency report back to him by May 25 on the whereabouts of the migrant minors and on the prosecutions that are initiated as a result of the investigation.