The U.S. lost track of 1,475 immigrant children last year. Here’s why people are outraged now.

May 29 at 7:07 AM
 1:25
Outrage over reports of ‘missing’ immigrant children

Outrage about treatment of children taken into U.S. custody at the Southwest border has reached a fever pitch, exploding in a barrage of tweets and calls to act 

Reports of federal authorities losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children in their custody. Scathing criticism over children being taken from their migrant parents at the border. Proposed rallies.

In the recent days, outrage about treatment of children taken into U.S. custody at the Southwest border has reached a fever pitch, exploding in a barrage of tweets and calls to action with the hashtags #WhereAreTheChildren and #MissingChildren.

How accurate are certain claims circulating online? Are these children really missing? What do those children have to do with the Trump administration’s new immigration enforcement policies? How many families are being separated? And why is there so much outrage about it now? We take a look at how the story has snowballed.

Did the United States really lose track of 1,475 immigrant kids?

In short, yes. During a Senate committee hearing late last month, Steven Wagner, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services, testified that the federal agency had lost track of 1,475 children who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on their own (that is, unaccompanied by adults) and subsequently were placed with adult sponsors in the United States. As the Associated Press reported, the number was based on a survey of more than 7,000 children:

From October to December 2017, HHS called 7,635 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else. The rest were missing, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS.

Health and Human Services officials have argued it is not the department’s legal responsibility to find those children after they are released from the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under HHS‘s Administration for Children and Families. And some have pointed out that adult sponsors are sometimes relatives who already were living in the United States and who intentionally may not be responding to contact attempts by HHS.

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