President Trump has signaled that cracking down on human trafficking and illegal immigration are important priorities for his administration. So why is he keeping an Obama-era program that’s delivered thousands of undocumented children into the hands of traffickers?
Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed memos outlining how the Trump administration plans to implement the president’s executive orders that crack down on illegal immigration and human trafficking across our southern border. Of note, these memos state that Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which exempts minors illegally residing in the United States from deportation, will be left in place for now.
As The Federalist reported, tens of thousands of children have been illegally brought into the United States under the auspices of DACA, and the government has no idea what’s become of thousands. Many of the lost children are being trafficked and sold into some form of slavery, sexual or otherwise.
The government has done a poor job of ensuring the safety of these children. Of the 155,000 children who’ve been apprehended at the southern border since 2013 and placed under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency has lost thousands.
In a 2016 Senate hearing, then-HHS Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg testified that he had no idea how many of these children could be contacted. In the same hearing, it was revealed that HHS policy allowed children to be placed in the care of sponsors who lived with sex offenders.
“Since the surge of migrant children, around 4 percent of sponsors received home visits from HHS officials to ensure proper care despite the fact that since 2013 the HHS has more than $350 million in unspent funds for the UAC program, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee,” reported World Magazine.
So how is the Trump administration planning to stop the DACA-enabled pipeline of vulnerable children to traffickers? Are the president and his men willing to eventually eliminate a program that has resulted in an unknown number of children being exploited and abused? These questions remain unanswered.
Currently, parents are paying smugglers to bring their children across the border in hopes the U.S. government will help reunite that child with a relative. Unfortunately, tragedy befalls to many of these children along the way. One of the memos states, “Regardless of the desires for family reunification, or conditions in other countries, the smuggling or trafficking of alien children is intolerable.”
The harsh tone the memo takes against trafficking is certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s just that: a step. While it threatens those who are currently abusing the system, it leaves in place all of the incentives. Keeping DACA intact while wagging a finger at those who abuse it is like leaving a bank safe unlocked after hours after putting up a sign that reads: if we catch you, you will probably get into some sort of legal trouble.
If Trump is serious about human trafficking, he ought to revisit the unintended consequences associated with Obama’s DACA program and consider rescinding or significantly amending it.