I posted this on Jezebel, but I’m reposting it here, because I have a lot of professional knowledge on immigration and human trafficking and I’m sick of seeing these two distinct but important issues conflated and confused.

The 1475 missing kids arrived in the US as unaccompanied minors in 2014-15 and were released to sponsors by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. In late 2017, HHS discovered that these 1475 children are no longer with their sponsors, and the government does not know where they are. HHS had significantly reduced its vetting requirements for sponsors, and some of the non-missing kids have been proven to have been trafficked (the traffickers actually planned it in advance and used HHS’s lenient vetting to enable them to traffic teenagers for labor). Since sponsors were not thoroughly vetted, there is legitimate reason to fear that some of these 1475 missing kids may have fallen victim to trafficking or other crimes. (eta also this number of 1475 lost kids came out in a congressional hearing at the end of April, and I have no idea why the internet just noticed now. The media did cover the hearing back in April.)

Also, while it’s likely some of the kids voluntarily left their sponsors for whatever reason, there have already been convictions (not just accusations or charges) of traffickers who acted as sponsors. And it’s been established that labor traffickers in Central America took advantage of the fact that unaccompanied minors in 2014-15 were being released to sponsors (and that HHS significantly relaxed its vetting requirements for sponsors) to deliberately target teenagers, arrange for them to be smuggled, have them turn themselves in to CBP, claim that a contact in the US is an uncle or aunt who will act as a sponsor, and then, upon their release to the sponsor, hold them in debt bondage, typically for agricultural work. So, unfortunately, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that at least some of these children are victims of human trafficking (as are some of the children that HHS didn’t lose track of).

(Also, it was a Democratic administration that lost these 1475 kids and released god knows how many other kids to their traffickers, and we (as Democrats) need to own this and hold our elected leadership responsible, not obfuscate and twist timelines so we can blame Trump, because these children’s lives are more important. And I am concerned that the Trump administration is going to seize on these lost kids to justify detaining kids instead of releasing them.)

Separately, about 2 weeks ago the Trump administration began separating children from their parents at the border (including from parents who are legally requesting asylum at the border in full compliance with US law). They have broken up about 600 families, and have not told the parents where their children are, although there is evidence to suggest that the children are being held in detention centers (not foster care) and there’s no evidence to suggest that the government does not know where they are. These kids are missing only in the sense that their parents do not know where they are.

Also, Trump and some Republicans are claiming there’s a law requiring children to be separated from their parents and that Democrats are keeping this law in place; this is false. Trump created this policy of separating children and is blaming Democrats because he is holding the children hostage to try to get Democrats give him funding to build a border wall.

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eta - Kinja is for some reason mostly not letting me post replies, so apologies if anyone responds to this with a question and I don’t answer.

here are some sources on the 1475 missing kids:

NYT story on the April congressional hearings (kinja won’t make it into a pretty link): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/26/us/politics/migrant-children-missing.html

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Here are sources on family separation:

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(Please note, that despite what the Trump admin is saying, asking for asylum at the border is not illegal. It is called affirmative asylum, and is permitted by US law and required by international law. I have not heard that they are prosecuting affirmative asylum seekers for illegal entry (although one of the lawyers on the Chris Hayes link I posted below says one of his clients was prosecuted after seeking asylum), but I have heard from other immigration lawyers that they are separating children from their parents who are requesting affirmative asylum and detaining the parents [and presumably the children too]. The Trump admin claims that the practice of separating children from parents is to deter parents from coming to the US, but the right to asylum is well established in international law as well as US law, and the Trump administration has no legal basis for trying to deter asylum seekers. )

I can’t find any source confirming that they are detaining children in separate detention facilities from their parents (as opposed to ‘foster care or whatever’), but I have heard this through immigration lawyers and there are a lot of credible rumors about it in the media. There’s evidence that this is what Trump was planning to do before the policy was announced, as reported in the NYT. Additionally, there are fewer legal complications if they keep the kids in detention (as opposed to releasing them to a sponsor/foster parent like they do with unaccompanied minors such as the 1475 mentioned above), as explained in this article (which also discusses the detention centers being built for migrant kids), so Trump has a motive to keep them detained indefinitely.

Chris Hayes has also been covering the family separations in great detail. WaPo also has this explainer about both the 1475 missing kids and the kids being separated from their families.