Whistleblower Set to Tell House that U.S. Government is ‘Middleman’ in Multibillion Dollar Migrant Child Trafficking Operation

A Wednesday House Judiciary subcommittee hearing will feature the testimony from a whistleblower who plans to warn lawmakers that the U.S. has become the “middleman” in a multibillion-dollar border migrant child trafficking operation.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Integrity, Security, and Enforcement will hold the “The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children” hearing and examine the surge of unaccompanied children (UACs) at the southern border with Mexico.

According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics, the number of UACs arriving at the border had swelled from the fiscal year 2020, when the number was 33,239, to over 146,000 in 2021, and 152,000 in the fiscal year 2022. So far, in 2023, more than 70,000 encounters of UACs have occurred.

When border encounters with UACs happen, the children are transferred into Health and Human Services (HHS) custody, then united with a sponsor — typically a family member or parent already in the U.S.

However, the Biden administration has been convulsed by several reports that officials have been unable to contact over 85,000 child migrants; recently, administration officials have reportedly ignored indications of “explosive” growth in child labor. Many have been forced into indentured servitude to repay smugglers and have worked in dismal conditions.

Wednesday’s hearing will feature three witnesses

The Wednesday hearing will feature three witnesses: Sheena Rodriguez, president and founder of Alliance for a Safe Texas; an HHS whistleblower formerly with the inspector general’s office, Tara Lee Rodas; and Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Rodas will warn of an issue that predates the administration but has significantly increased during the recent migrant crisis, according to a copy of her written testimony.

“Today, children will work overnight shifts at slaughterhouses, factories, restaurants to pay their debts to smugglers and traffickers. Today, children will be sold for sex,” Rodas will say. “Today, children will call a hotline to report they are being abused, neglected, and trafficked. For nearly a decade, unaccompanied children have been suffering in the shadows.”

She will also talk about volunteering at an emergency intake site in California to assist the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in identifying minor’s sponsors who have crossed the border.

“I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes. Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with being recruited in their home country, smuggled to the U.S. border, and ends when ORR delivers a child to a sponsor — some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of Transnational Criminal Organizations. Some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income — this is why we are witnessing an explosion of labor trafficking,” read Rodas’ written remarks.

“Whether intentional or not, it can be argued that the U.S. Government has become the middleman in a large scale, multi-billion-dollar, child trafficking operation run by bad actors seeking to profit off the lives of children.”

Rodriguez, who is from the Alliance for a Safe Texas, will share her experiences, including encountering unaccompanied children at the border. Those encounters include teenage boys whom she told her cartel cooperatives moved children through Mexico and were held by armed guards at warehouses.

She will additionally call for the ending of releasing migrants to sponsors and for the investigation of federal agencies responsible.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening. Congress has the power to stop this, which is why I am calling on you to do what is right,” reads her testimony.

Vaughn will also call for congressional action, including closing legal loopholes that she says force the government “to operate a massive catch and release program for illegally arriving alien children.”

“They have been carelessly funneled through the custody of U.S. government agencies and contractors and handed off to very lightly vetted sponsors (who are usually also here illegally) in our communities without regard to their safety and well-being,” Vaughn will say.

“There is no question that the system for processing minors who cross illegally is dysfunctional, and has been for some time, and needs to be fixed.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pushed back on the agency losing contact with 85,000 minors. He said Congress limits authorities at HHS.

“I have never heard that number of 85,000, I don’t know where it comes from and … so I would say it doesn’t sound at all to be realistic, and what we do is we try and follow up as best we can with these kids,” said Becerra last month.

“Congress has given us certain authorities. Our authorities end when we have found a suitable sponsor to place that child with. We try to do some follow-up, but neither the child nor the sponsor is obligated to follow up with us,” said Becerra.

In the meantime, Susan Rice, domestic policy adviser — who departed the role this week — responded to the report by the Times that her team was shown evidence of an expanding migrant child labor crisis.
“We were never informed of any kind of systematic problem with child labor or migrant child labor,” said Rice.