Veterinarians To Tag Immigrants In HHS Care To Reduce Lost Children
Local veterinarians have agreed this week to assist Health and Human Services with locating lost children by tagging children with electronic tracking chips. The chips, inserted with a large needle, are traditionally used in dogs and allow veterinarians and animal shelters to identify lost dogs. One veterinarian commented it seemed a little unusual but “a lost critter is a lost critter and tagging is a proven method for recovering them.”
The offer is meeting with some strong resistance. The immigration lobby was concerned that it was an undignified and inhumane way to track human beings. “Just because they have come to this country in search of a better life, does not mean they can be treated like dogs.”
The Conservative Dog Rescue Lobby immediately countered, putting out a press release expressing its concern that the chipping of immigrants might lead to a lack of available chips needed for dogs and other “high value” pets. According to a spokesman that wished to remain anonymous, “We have to take care of our dogs first. American dogs must be our priority. If there is a surplus, then we can start chipping them border-crossers. Like our great leader always says, we must keep ‘Merica first.”
Chipping advocates say electronic chips have doubled the return rate of lost dogs and increased for cats by over 2000%. They were not sure how the new methods would translate into the recovery of migrant children, as the supply question is unknown. It is difficult to determine the exact number of chips HHS need, but recent testimony and news stories have highlighted the problem.
In an April Senate subcommittee meeting, Steven Wagner, HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, admitted that 20% of the undocumented children it had placed in homes were missing. Well, not missing. He testified the department was “unable to determine with certainty” the children’s whereabouts. For those of us in the real world that means “MISSING.”
Not surprisingly, the idea that the government had “misplaced” nearly 1500 children brought about outrage from all sides. In response, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, countered and called the reports “false and misleading.” His position was that the children were not really lost, “we just cannot get in touch with them.”
Once HHS takes an immigrant child into custody, they seek to place the child with a family member or friend already living in the United States. These “sponsors” then take possession of the children until their HHS immigration proceedings.
Seems like a good idea. Placing the children with family members or family friends means HHS does not have to pay to house, feed or care for the children. Only one problem. They keep losing them. Many of the children are knowingly placed with family members that are in the country illegally. Then, when the government tries to follow-up, the sponsors are hesitant to respond to calls from the same agency that would love to toss their Spanish speaking butts right out of the country.
HHS never even considered that they would have trouble tracking the children. The idea that placing them with families already on pins and needles from Trump’s hardline immigration policies never came up. One suggestion was to change the caller ID on their phones to something less threatening. They could change it from Department of Family Separation and Despair to the more friendly Department of Adios or maybe Visit Mexico on US.
Hargan went on to clarify that the HHS had no obligation to make follow-up calls to check on the children to see if additional services that might be needed. He complained that the agency’s voluntary reaching out should not be held against the agency. He noted, “This is a classic example of the old 'No good deed goes unpunished' adage.”
“After all, these are just small children ripped from their families and placed with distant relatives or friends they may have never met, why should we bother to follow-up? We have no legal obligation to do so. Sure, they are vulnerable, scared, non-English speaking young children in a foreign country. It’s not like they might need some support or be in any danger of exploitation. What is the worst that could happen? It’s not like we don’t know where they are? Well, okay it is like that, but it is just a communication issue. I am sure they are fine, and they will all show up for their deportation hearings.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has defended the policy, saying that similar separations happen in the US "every day." Nielsen believes “we are not the only ones to separate children from their families. It happened in Germany by the millions, kidnappers do it all the time, divorce tears apart families. Get over it, life is not fair."
Wagner told the Senate subcommittee that after staying in an ORR (HHS) shelter, most children are placed with sponsors they have close ties to -- typically a parent or close relative. And once that child is placed with a sponsor, "ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care."
The HHS’s position is pretty simple. “We take small children away from their parents. We then place them with a sponsor likely in the country illegally. Then, in spite of causing the family separation and approving the child’s placement with an illegal sponsor, we walk away. That is all we are required to do.”
Rather than develop and implement programs to treat these children like humans, the HHS is going to implement a test chip program as suggested by the veterinarians. “We are telling them that we are giving away free chips. When they show up expecting Doritos, BAM, right in the neck. We are still trying to figure out how to convince them there are free chips at the veterinarian’s office – maybe we will tell them there is a free puppy too.”