A report based on a six-month Senate investigation has accused the Obama administration of overseeing the sending of refugee children from Central America to human traffickers.
The investigation, initiated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, detailed more than 30 cases in which human trafficking took place, according to The Washington Post.
Portman was prompted to support an investigation after the uncovering of a human trafficking operation in Marion, Ohio, where eight children were compelled to work at an egg farm for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
“It is intolerable that human trafficking -- modern day slavery -- could occur in our own backyard,” Portman wrote in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “What makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U.S. government agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers.”
The boys were kept in terrible conditions in a trailer park. FBI agents raided the park in December 2014, but the Senate report stated that federal officials could have uncovered the abuse much earlier.
Another case presented involved a boy who was sent by the Department of Health and Human Services to stay with his father, despite the man having a history of beating the child with an electric cord. The boy was later found confined to a basement.
“HHS places children with individuals about whom it knows relatively little and without verifying the limited information provided by sponsors about their alleged relationship with the child,” the report stated.
A statement from HHS spokesman Mark Weber said the agency would “review the committee’s findings carefully and continue to work to ensure the best care for the children we serve.”
Earlier in January, the Department of Homeland Security conducted raids targeting refugees from Central America for deportation in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. At least 121 refugees were detained and deported, including children.
“This should come as no surprise,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, according to The Atlantic. “I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed.”
Refugee advocacy groups were angered by the Obama administration’s move.
“I think the administration’s approach is fundamentally flawed,” Frank Sharry, an immigration reform advocate with America’s Voice, told The Atlantic. “They are treating a refugee crisis as an immigration enforcement issue.”