In a shocking example of negligence of duty, the federal Health and Human Services Department in many instances did not conduct mandatory background checks on those working with migrant children.
These children crossed the border alone during a massive surge in 2021 and were placed in emergency holding centers. Now the inspector general’s report released Thursday exposed that some 200 workers did not have the proper background checks.
In fact, only 29 were conducted, and 20 of those were not done in the mandated time period.
Investigators discovered that 174 did not have the FBI fingerprint background checks. Fifty-five others did, though 25 were not conducted in a “timely manner.”
These revelations came even as the department’s attempts to plug significant worker shortages with temporary transfers and paying overtime were deemed to be failing. The Federal Department of Homeland Security sounded another alarm on Thursday.
A government watchdog says the federal Health and Human Services Department often failed to perform required background checks on workers at emergency holding centers for migrant children who crossed the border alone during a surge in 2021. https://t.co/3Newxsz5RT
— KSAT 12 (@ksatnews) May 5, 2023
The agency’s internal watchdog found through interviews and surveys of over 9,300 workers that maintaining the current level of border traffic — legal and otherwise — is “unsustainable” with current staffing levels.
That finding preceded by less than a week the expiration of Title 42 border protections. This Trump-era policy was successful in quickly expelling illegal migrants back across the border into Mexico.
The review centered on 10 of 14 contracted “emergency intake sites” put together during the surge after President Joe Biden took office. They included convention centers in San Diego and Long Beach, California, a fairgrounds near Los Angeles, and a pair of Texas military bases.
Federal officials had a holding capacity of 13,500 two years ago but were wholly unprepared for the deluge following Biden’s inauguration.
For example, during President Donald Trump’s last full year in office, federal authorities took custody of about 19,000 illegal migrant children. In the 2021 budget year that number soared to over 122,000.
They were put in the position of asking local governments and the military to step in and run emergency shelters. As the report showed, many precautionary steps fell through the cracks as these shelters were operated for up to six months.
The report concluded that the Office of Refugee Resettlement must review the deficiencies found by the investigation and ensure that they are not repeated during future crises. For example, the one about to take place with the expiration of Title 42.