Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra faced several congressional hearings this week, with Republicans grilling 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 Hannah 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. Becerra questioned where senators got the data about the 85,000 migrants. Dreier tweeted the numbers are from Becerra's press office. At one hearing, Becerra said, "I have no idea where those statistics come from, if they’re based in reality or not," The Hill reports.
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. As of Wednesday, there were 8,208 such children.