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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."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
4 mins ago - Energy & Environment

The energy crises roiling Europe and China — and beyond

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Energy crises in Europe and China are spilling into economic forecasts, supply chains and beyond.

Driving the news: Europe has for weeks been facing sky-high natural gas and power prices, while China — the world's second-largest economy — is facing electricity shortages that are hobbling factories.

Americans' concern about climate hits all-time highs

The flooded Major Deegan Expressway following a night of heavy rain from remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 2, 2021, in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After disaster-filled summer, a record number of Americans are concerned about global warming, according to a new poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Driving the news: The number of Americans who said they are “very” or “somewhat worried” about global warming has reached an all-time high of 70%, the Yale group found as part of a survey it has been conducting since 2008.

Senators to grill top Pentagon leaders over Biden's Afghanistan exit

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, are testifying publicly this week for the first time since the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The Pentagon's top leaders have come under intense scrutiny over the series of disasters that followed the U.S. exit, including the Taliban's seizure of Kabul, the ISIS-K terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans in August, and a retaliatory U.S. drone strike that killed 10 civilians.