Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa called for an investigation by federal law enforcement agents into the trafficking of migrant children in an explosive letter sent Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray.
According to a statement released by his office, Grassley is sounding the alarms after reviewing “legally protected whistleblower disclosures, including Health and Human Services records tracking interactions with unaccompanied alien children who entered at the Southern border and who were eventually placed with often-poorly vetted sponsors.”
“My office is working diligently with whistleblowers to identify as many missing children as possible, in hopes they can be found and saved,” Grassley said in his letter to Mayorkas and Wray. “I expect the cooperation of DHS, as well as the full cooperation of HSI, FBI, HHS, and any NGOs involved, in this critical mission. It is our moral duty to do all we can to rescue children who may have endured sexual abuse or forced labor.”
Grassley’s letter summarizes several instances of potential human trafficking and vetting failures. “It is accompanied by a detailed packet to law enforcement containing specific and sensitive information to further substantiate Grassley’s concerns and assist law enforcement in locating and recovering children placed in dangerous situations,” reads the statement from Grassley’s office.
The senator wrote that the full contents of his message to Mayorkas and Wray had to be “withheld from the public at this time to prevent any potential criminal actors from learning they may be investigated.” However, the senator did provide short summaries of specific cases without identifying details.
One such summary reads:
The identity of male subjects who may be involved in a potential trafficking ring: Information provided includes the names of many children placed by ORR in the same apartment complex, including multiple children placed in sponsorships to multiple males in the same apartment, with additional sponsorship requests pending. One of the male subjects also attempted to sponsor multiple children at a completely different apartment complex. Nearby buildings also had many other children placed in sponsorships or pending sponsorship.
During an October Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children Part II,” Grassley asked DHS witness Cardell Morant about news reports of 85,000 missing migrant children and how many of them Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) had recovered. Morant did not know the answer to Grassley’s question but promised to send numbers.
Today, three months later, DHS has still failed to provide Congress with the number of migrant children, if any, have been recovered by the department. “Based upon alarming information I have received from multiple brave and very credible whistleblowers, it’s painfully apparent that HHS … has failed to take corrective action to prevent children from falling into the wrong hands,” wrote Grassley.
In his letter, Grassley demands to know whether there has been an adequate investigation into each “child, household, or sponsor identified in the documents.” If not, the senator wants an investigation and an immediate commitment “to identifying and rescuing any children you can.”
“It should go without saying that the UC Portal at HHS and other relevant records should be searched to determine if any sponsors mentioned may have sponsored other children after the date of the records I am providing you and that you use these records as a starting point rather than an ending point,” the letter states.
Grassley is asking for a preliminary update on the information provided in his letter no later than Feb. 6, 2024.
“The old proverb states that, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,'” Grassley wrote. “Likewise, the journey of recovering 85,000 or more missing children begins with a single child.”