US Immigration Crisis: Overwhelmed HHS Not Providing Proper Medical Screening Of Border-Crossing Children

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The U.S. government is so overwhelmed by the recent surge in illegal border crossings, officials are failing to provide proper medical examinations. Courtesy of Reuters

The total number of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border more than doubled during the year ending June 30, 2014, when compared to last: 57,525 compared to 27,884, according to statistics compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In fact, the number of solo, underaged undocumented immigrants has been increasing since 2011, with a significant surge occurring just this spring. On Thursday, ABC News reported the U.S. government is so overwhelmed, officials are failing to provide proper medical screening of the children before transporting them — even those who are sick from the temporary shelters to the long-term holding facilities.

Staffers working in the holding centers speak of measles, chicken pox, and strep among the undocumented children, according to Fox News, which also reported how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially claimed “very few health issues with children in the program.” Now, ABC has added to this picture of a so-called "breakdown" in medical procedure. Having obtained a Department of Defense memo, ABC reports “two unaccompanied children were flown from Nogales to California despite having 101-degree fevers and flu-like symptoms.”

After arriving at the Naval Base in Ventura County, these two children were eventually hospitalized. Within days, an outbreak of pneumonia and influenza occurred at the same naval base. ABC News said the HHS would not respond to inquiries about the government memo, though HHS did confirm the outbreak.

“The recent and dramatic rise in illegal migration across our border, from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, presents a major challenge to the United States," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in a recent statement. “Our message is clear to those who try to illegally cross our borders: you will be sent back home.” It is widely believed the smugglers bringing these children across the border are telling their families the opposite, suggesting the children will become citizens of the U.S. Meanwhile, abiding by a 2008 anti-trafficking law, the U.S. government cannot automatically turn away children from Central America, and instead provides a hearing to determine if they qualify for humanitarian relief.

What exactly happens to the children once they arrive in the U.S.? Upon discovery, Customs and Border Protection officials place the abandoned children into temporary shelters, such as military bases, community centers, and facilities operated by nonprofit organizations. After 72 hours, HHS takes custody of them and performs medical examinations, which includes vaccinations and a tuberculosis screen, ABC reports. From there, children are either reunited with parents already living in the U.S., put into foster care, or placed into deportation proceedings.

According to the Miami Herald, Johnson has been unclear about what happens when an undocumented parent attempts to pick up his or her child, failing to specify whether both are deported or neither. And it is unknown exactly how many of these children have entered foster care. What is known is that, as of Sept. 30, 2012, Child Welfare reported an estimated 399,546 total children in foster care. Of these, about 15 percent were living in institutions or group homes.

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