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HHS responds to uproar over undocumented children

Central American children play at the Immigrant Respite Center in McAllen, Texas after their families were released from U.S. immigration officials. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Health and Human Services Department responded last night to the swelling firestorm over the number of undocumented children the agency has been unable to locate, saying that the children in question are "not 'lost.'"

The issue: HHS testified last month that it was unsure of the whereabouts of 1,475 children — out of a survey of 7,000 — who were found alone at the U.S. border and placed with sponsors inside the U.S. (The Washington Post has a helpful explainer.)

The response, from HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan:

“These children are not ‘lost’; their sponsors — who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them — simply did not respond  or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made. While there are many possible reasons for this, in many cases sponsors cannot be reached because they themselves are illegal aliens and do not want to be reached by federal authorities. This is the core of this issue: In many cases, HHS has been put in the position of placing illegal aliens with the individuals who helped arrange for them to enter the country illegally. This makes the immediate crisis worse and creates a perverse incentive for further violation of federal immigration law."