Federal agents: Here's why the government can't find 1,500 'lost' immigrant children

Kristen Johanson
May 29, 2018 - 9:22 pm
Two female detainees sleep in a holding cell at a US Customs and Border Protection center in Nogales, Arizona, on June 18, 2014.

Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images via CNN

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Federal officials say reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human services "lost" 1,500 migrant children are "misleading and false" — clarifying instead that their sponsors just aren't answering to follow-up visits and calls. 

But a local immigration attorney said the real problem is fear of ICE agents within immigrant communities.

When a child crosses into the states, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) pairs kids with relatives already living here as their parents go through customs proceedings. ORR is supposed to check in from time to time.

"These communities are pretty terrified right now," said Jonah Eaton, an attorney for the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia.

Eaton said families are avoiding the agency for fear that it could lead to deportation.

"When ORR is sort of following up with these family members, these people sort of drop off the radar," he added. "They are now worried that by continuing to communicate with ORR, they are going to be placed into removal proceedings."

Refugee and immigration agents are supposed to be completely independent from each other, but under President Donald Trump's administration, Eaton said ICE is being "much more aggressive."
 
"They are sort of reaching into places they haven't reached before," he noted. "There are probably over 8,000 children in detention right now, and that number keeps ticking up, which is why they are going to continue to open detention centers."