U.S. Spent $13 Billion Sponsoring Unaccompanied Minor Children At The Border Since 2012
Breaking news: Last year, the feds spent $2.7 billion – roughly $18,000 per unaccompanied child at the border. For context, the average cost of education in Texas K-12 schools was $9,800 per student.
GRAPHIC: Federal funding sponsoring unaccompanied minors at the border spiked to an all-time high in 2022.
The chaos on America’s southern border has had unintended consequence – a human catastrophe hurting tens of thousands of unaccompanied, defenseless children.
Despite generous taxpayer funding, the federal infrastructure to provide for these children and ensure their safety is woefully incompetent.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a part of the Administration for Children and Families, provides social services for unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Earlier this year the office came under fire for reports children were being placed with abusive “sponsors” and made to work full time in grueling conditions, violating child labor laws. An Inspector General report released in 2023 additionally criticized the agency for not conducting background checks on employees and contractors charged with caring for children.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found that the agency spent $2.7 billion to “sponsor” unaccompanied minors – a staggering $18,000 per child. Roughly 150,000 unaccompanied minors were encountered at the southern border in fiscal year 2022.
However, today, reports indicate that up to 85,000 “sponsored” children are missing – their locations and whereabouts are not known.
Unaccompanied children are defined as those under 18 who have no lawful immigration status in the U.S. and who do not have a parent or legal guardian that can provide custody.
According to the agency’s Unaccompanied Children (UC) Program website, the office oversees making placement decisions for these minors, releasing them to “qualified sponsors and family members,” and providing the children with legal representation and advice, among many other responsibilities.
Big Spikes in Federal Funding
OpenTheBooks auditors found that between 2012-2022, the program has doled out $12.8 billion in grants, with a substantial increase in 2018 and again in 2022.
Grant spending in this area has increased by about a billion dollars in 2022 over 2021. This year the budget is $2.7 billion, up from $950 million in 2017.
Most spending on unaccompanied minors takes place in Texas ($7.8 billion) followed by New York ($1.4 billion) and Florida ($660 million).
The biggest grant recipients have collected over $3 billion from FY2012-2022: Southwest Key Programs ($3.7 billion) and Baptist Child & Family Services (BCFS) Health and Human Services ($3.1 billion). Three other organizations have split another $1.3 billion in funding: Comprehensive Health Services ($484 million), Cayuga Home For Children ($453 million) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service ($395 million).
GRAPHIC: Crisis Profiteering? Top executive pay at the leading non-profits running the federal Unaccompanied Child Program.
85,000 Missing Children And Allegations Of Child Trafficking
Earlier this year ORR came under fire for reports from the New York Times that children were being placed with abusive “sponsors” and made to work full time in grueling conditions, violating child labor laws.
The report also noted that while the agency is supposed to check in with children one month after being placed with their sponsors, 85,000 children could not be contacted.
A Florida grand jury report also accused the agency of “facilitating the forced migration, sale, and abuse of foreign children, and some of our fellow Florida residents are (in some cases unwittingly) funding and incentivizing it for primarily economic reasons.”
An Inspector General report released in 2023 additionally criticized the agency for not conducting background checks on employees and contractors charged with caring for children.
In 2021, Tara Lee Rodas worked on Operation Artemis, a plan by the Biden Administration to get control of the humanitarian disaster on the U.S.-Mexico border. In April, Rodas blew the whistle on child trafficking with detailed testimony to the House Judiciary Committee accusing the U.S. of being the middleman in a billion-dollar child trafficking operation:
“I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes. Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with being recruited in home country, smuggled to the US border, and ends when ORR delivers a child to a Sponsors – some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of Transnational Criminal Organizations.
Some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income – this is why we are witnessing an explosion of labor trafficking.
Director refuses to answer or doesn’t know key information
In April 2023, Robin Dunn Marcos, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement – the office responsible for the unaccompanied child program– was asked about operations and the 85,000 children the agency reportedly lost contact with.
During questioning, Marcos said she did not believe the sponsor vetting system was inadequate. However, Marcos would not state whether the 85,000 missing children number is accurate.
Additionally, Marcos did not know the rejection rate of sponsorship applications.
There is little accountability or transparency.
Leadership cannot answer basic questions. Bad actors are taking advantage. Non-profit social service organizations are reaping billions.
Taxpayers are left paying the skyrocketing bill for a corrupt and overwhelmed system.
OpenTheBooks.com – We believe transparency is transformational. Using forensic auditing and open records, we hold government accountable.
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Mr. Andrzejewski, Sorry to be simple minded, but I'd love to know your best guess is of the U.S. government's total annual expenditures and taxes income. What do taxes contribute to the government's total revenue, and what contributes the rest?
For a little context, Texas was 43rd in spending per pupil