HOUSTON: On July 26, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra testified at a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding the department’s policies on caring for and placing unaccompanied migrant children with sponsors or family. While some topics covered federal funding, many questions were asked about vetting sponsors and the exploitation of child labor.
Secretary Becerra went to great lengths to assure lawmakers that sponsors go through a “thorough” process that “could” include FBI background checks and DNA testing before placing a child in a home. While many questions were asked based on the fictitious accounts depicted in the Sound of Freedom movie, those questions can sometimes detract from more pressing (and fundamental) issues within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
If not for movies like “Taken,” the “Sound of Freedom,” and others, some of these questions might never be asked. However, the damage movies often do is embedded in the creation of false narratives. In a clip from the hearing, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) asks some critical questions. But his reactions to the responses from Secretary Becerra are where most of the harm is done. Rep. Griffith treated nearly every answer as if he were debating a conspiracy theory while overlooking the facts that were laid out before him.
“When a familial relationship is claimed, do you all do any kind of a DNA test to establish a genetic link between the sponsor and the child?” asked Rep. Griffith about 29 minutes into the hearing. “And I ask that question… it became more poignant last night as I was watching the “Sound of Freedom” because the bad guy was bringing a child who had been kidnapped across the border. The good guys were there to intercept but he presented fake documents claiming to be the uncle of the child.”
“We go through a thorough vetting process for each and every sponsor,” responded Secretary Becerra. We make every effort to try to find the closest relative for that child and one of the tools that we use is DNA testing.”
This among nearly every other response, no matter how valid, was discounted by Rep. Griffith and other Republicans as they pointed to the Sound of Freedom as their base of knowledge. It goes without saying how much of a propaganda film it is even though it provokes some people to start asking good questions. What this hearing highlighted is just how much U.S. voters and their representatives are willing to go to glaze over the epidemic of child sexual assault and trafficking right here in their own backyard.
The United States represents some of the highest human trafficking numbers in the world and it’s not because of Latin America, as the Sound of Freedom would have you believe. The notion that people think Latinos are primarily to blame for child trafficking in the U.S. represents yet another avenue in which the film does real-world harm. Latinos are dehumanized enough by white power structures and now racists have another weapon they are wielding against the various communities represented at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Another issue that was hard to ignore came in the form of commentary offered by various Republicans. They felt the need to mention the nonexistent open border in what they refer to as “Biden’s Border” while overlooking how racist policies like those of Texas Governor Greg Abbott are creating a different crisis. Still, they’re also detracting from the missing children from policies that were implemented under former president Donald Trump.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) was one of those Republicans. In the process of seeming to ask about missing migrant children as a result of being in the HHS/ORR system, he went on a rant about LGBTQ migrants. Despite the two issues being unrelated, Rep. Crenshaw went on to ask about trans-asylum-seekers instead of missing kids. What he made clear is the concern among conservatives isn’t about the trafficking or smuggling of migrant children as much as it is about culture wars.
“I can’t imagine what changed between the years 2020 and 2021,” opined Rep. Crenshaw about 1 hour and 49 minutes into the hearing. “Anybody have any… there was an election. A lot of policy changes that created a magnet for unaccompanied minors to come across. All these problems we’re talking about, sponsorships and intakes and trying to vet sponsors and child labor and sex trafficking, they become exponentially worse because there’s an eight-fold increase in the number of kids coming across.”
“I do have some specific questions,” Rep. Crenshaw continued. “I was looking for some policy guidance on what to do when they go missing, it was actually much easier to find your LGBT guidance. This concerned me a little bit. Maybe a lot a bit… a 17-year-old boy tells you all he’s a girl. Does he automatically get placed into the girl’s, women’s facilities? Is that how that process works?”
What white supremacy does is drag their culture wars into everything so they can categorize them as a singular thing. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) used the fear of “communism” to fight against any measures that benefitted non-white people. Issues such as desegregation, voting rights, equal justice under the law, and so much more. While they still use “socialism” and “communism” as scare words, it wasn’t until recent history that they started using “woke” in the same historical fashion. They do this to disguise that which they’re guilty of: bigotry and racism.
One of the biggest issues they gloss over is the profitability of the private prison industry in warehousing unaccompanied minors. Under Trump, thousands of families were separated under dubious charges, and children were then designated as unaccompanied minors. They were then placed in assembly line-styled systems that moved kids out of ORR and HHS custody and placed the children in private-sector detention centers. From there children are later lost in foster care systems and adoption service industries.
In 2018, an Associated Press investigation identified “holes in the system that allow state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families – without notifying their parents.” The investigation exposed problems that have grown exponentially as migrant parents are often deported without their children. Loopholes that too often result in state-sponsored child smuggling and trafficking.
How adoption systems profit from the kidnapping and trafficking of children should not be overlooked. A study by professor of law David M. Smolin titled, “Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children” highlights the issue. Since Smolin’s report in 2006, there has been little change in how freely some of these organizations are allowed to operate. Incidents of U.S. missionaries trafficking Haitians after an earthquake rocked the nation in 2010 are but one example while Trump’s policies clearly provided us with another.
None of these issues are new and still prevalent within the current immigration system. None of the questions asked of Secretary Becerra addressed them and were instead representative of Hollywood’s loose interpretations of child trafficking. As Republicans attacked President Joe Biden and not the broken system they refuse to help fix, Democrats also failed to address the problems that contribute to the high numbers of child trafficking in the U.S.
Solving the problem means fixing it here at home first.
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