Close to one dozen migrant children who entered the U.S. unaccompanied by adults have been reported missing in Houston and to date cannot be found, Reuters reports. Earlier this summer, a Houston police detective alerted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after discovering what looked like a pattern of migrant kids missing from the homes of their U.S. sponsors, according to an HHS official, who declined to be identified. The cases underscore the challenges for President Joe Biden's administration as it faces a record number of unaccompanied kids arriving at the southwest border it must safely and quickly release to sponsors in the United States.
HHS took the rare step of launching an emergency supervisory review of releases of unaccompanied children to non-parent sponsors in the Houston area. Of the 57 kids who were reported missing, 46 were confirmed safe. A handful left the homes of relatives acting as sponsors to join parents who were in the United States, one official said, adding that the number of cases being reviewed is small compared to the volume of overall releases to the area. More than 200,000 non-Mexican minors — who cannot be quickly turned around at the border — have been caught crossing alone since Biden took office in January 2021. Early in Biden's presidency, the rise in unaccompanied minors overwhelmed Border Patrol stations, leaving children stuck in crowded conditions beyond a legal limit of 72 hours. Biden officials took steps to expand emergency shelters and streamline the release of children to sponsors – usually parents or relatives – in the United States, while at the same time seeking to ensure they are not sent to homes where they could face danger or mistreatment.