The Saga of the Immigrant Children

Did the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lose 1,500 immigrant children?

An alarming report of 1,500 immigrant children supposedly lost by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) has top government officials on the defensive. Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced that it would refer anyone illegally crossing the border for federal prosecution, 100 percent of the time. As children cannot accompany adults into custody, the law created a policy of essentially separating adults and children at the border. Following an announcement about this controversial law relating to deportation and removal, additional investigations were started concerning to the handling of immigrant children.

The Truth Behind the Claims of Missing Children

A rumor that the DHSS lost track of 1,500 children emerged following the examination of a statement made by a top official within the DHSS in April. Steven Wagner stated during an April hearing that the office was unable to determine the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied alien children. Somehow this statement became attributed to the new policy change, though the statement was made a month prior.

To better understand the claims of missing children, it is critical to determine exactly what happens to children at the border. If a child comes to the U.S. illegally without a parent or without an adult that can be confirmed as the parent, attempts will be made to reunite the child with a parent or relative already in the country. The individual they are placed with is termed a “sponsor” and the child will remain in this placement while undergoing immigration hearings.

Once placed with a sponsor, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will typically make a follow-up call or visit to the sponsor. While this is the normal procedure, it is not always followed and the ORR has stated it is not legally responsible to do so. The so-called missing children are those children placed with sponsors who now cannot be reached. This could be because the sponsors are here illegally as well and wish to avoid contact.

While the claims of missing children are perhaps misconstrued, it highlights a major immigration issue. The U.S. government is placing immigrant children in the hands of sponsors that they will likely never find again. Sponsors have learned to be fearful of government contact due to aggressive deportation policies. Unreachable children could be at risk of gang violence, human trafficking, and much more.

If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). You can also visit our Law Firm’s website at