Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC8, accused U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra of misleading him and other North Carolinians about plans to house unaccompanied migrant children at a Greensboro facility at a hearing Wednesday.
Hudson was among other House members that questioned Becerra at the House Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing entitled “Stopping the Exploitation of Migrant Children.”
He said it has been heartbreaking and frustrating to see the rapid decline in border security, thanks to President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ open border policies, noting that they have affected not only the nation’s border communities but all communities, including those in North Carolina.
“Because of the reversals of these (President Donald Trump’s) policies, your agency has been overwhelmed, so the decision was made to weaken vetting procedures for sponsors at the expense of the safety of unaccompanied minors and the communities across our nation,” Hudson said. “We saw in an investigative report, that HHS has undone safeguards in place to make sure children are placed with safe sponsors. The result has been over 85,000 lost children, untold numbers of whom have fallen victim to sex and labor trafficking.”
Hudson shifted to questioning Becerra about comments he made to Hudson at a health subcommittee hearing on May 12th, 2021, regarding the former American Hebrew Academy, which will now be known as the Greensboro Influx Care Facility.
Last month, approximately four buses of workers began arriving at the facility.
The Academy, which closed in 2019, leased the 100-acre property to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Agency for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in June 2022.
The facility, which will become the federal government’s largest active housing facility for unaccompanied minors, will be the interim home for the children ages 13-17 until they can be united with family or sponsors. The average stay is expected to be between two and three weeks. Children will not be allowed to leave the campus during their stay.
A federal government official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter, told CBS News that ORR intends to open the facility in Greensboro in August.
(Video here) 2:08:36 “I asked you point blank. 2:09:31 “That day?”
Becerra replied that he was completely honest that day because they didn’t have a facility at that point where they would be sending children to in North Carolina. He said they go through a constant process of looking for sites all over the country and are in 27 states, and they are currently looking at a particular site in Greensboro, but that it isn’t “an open site.”
“So, were you carefully using the word “plan,” “We don’t have a plan” to try to trick me?” Hudson asked Becerra.
“I try to be honest with you if you ask me about where we are right now with any particular site in Greensboro,” Becerra said. “I’ll give you the details that I can give you today with what I know, but I couldn’t have predicted two years ago where we would be today, and again, we still don’t have a particular center open in Greensboro NC.”
Hudson also questioned why the Greensboro facility was even needed since there are two empty influx care facilities in Texas.
“To me, this sounds like your department may be wasting taxpayer dollars on two empty facilities in Texas and plan to open yet another one in North Carolina,” he said.
Becerra said that one is Fort Bliss, a military installation that isn’t set up to be a site for children, and they are looking for a more permanent site that is more accommodating for children.
Others, like Rep. Kat Cammack, R-FL, were also doubtful that a thorough check was being completed on those crossing the border, stating that 151 different nationalities have crossed the southwest border under the Biden administration.
She pointed out that only 9% of unaccompanied children are subjected to a DNA test with their sponsor and less than 23% to a background check. In addition, case managers aren’t trained to evaluate or recognize documents like birth certificates, as being authentic or fake.
Cammack also talked about how migrant children are being “rented” by other migrants through a “recycling process” to get over the border. She said one was a convicted sex offender who claimed to be a little girl’s father but revealed that he wasn’t when threatened with a DNA test.
She later pointed to a slide of a memo that showed the DNA requirement has been suspended.
“The DNA requirements that you rely on in the case files, I realize this is a CBP document, but this memo is something that is really important for what we’re talking about because so much of the case files that your case managers rely on in vetting these thorough checks they’ve suspended the DNA requirements,” Cammack said. “I know you won’t answer the question anyway and deviate from your carefully crafted talking points, but I think this is disgusting that 85,000 children are missing, and it’s on your watch.”
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