New York Times investigative reporter Hannah Dreier shot back at Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday over his comments at a congressional hearing on the number of missing migrant children.
Becerra faced several congressional hearings this week, and Republicans took the chance to grill him over reports of unaccompanied minor refugees being placed with sponsors who send them to work in poor conditions. A New York Times report written by Dreier found that HHS could not reach more than 85,000 children after being placed with sponsors and lost “immediate contact” with one-third of the children, citing HHS data.
In the video tweeted by Dreier, Becerra questioned where the GOP senators got the data about the 85,000 migrants from. Dreier said in her tweet that the numbers are from the HHS press office.
“Those statistics that you’ve mentioned, as I said previously, in regards to another question by one of your colleagues, those are those are unfamiliar to me,” Becerra said at the hearing. “I have no idea where those statistics come from, if they’re based in reality or not. And we do everything we can to make sure any child, before we allow them to be released to a sponsor, that that sponsor has been vetted.”
“In several congressional hearings, HHS Secretary Becerra has been asked about our reporting that HHS couldn’t reach 85,000 migrant children right after releasing them,” Dreier captioned the video. “He says he doesn’t know where those numbers come from. For what it’s worth, they’re from the HHS press office.”
The Hill has reached out to HHS to confirm the data.
HHS is required by law to care for unaccompanied children under the age of 18 who come into the U.S. with no immigration status. According to HHS, the “vast majority” of children are placed with sponsors who are family members or parents already living in the U.S.
Sponsors are required to undergo background checks, risk assessment tests and criminal public records check when being unified with unaccompanied children, HHS’s website said. Sponsors also often undergo a sex offender registry check, and in some instances, a home study visit before completing the unification process.
HHS keeps daily data on the number of unaccompanied children in the agency’s care, according to the agency’s website. As of Wednesday, March 29, there were 8,208 children in HHS’s care, and 267 were discharged from care on that day, according to the government data.