Press Found Unaccompanied Children Released to Traffickers in Jan. 2016, Did No WH Follow-up

June 19th, 2018 10:31 PM

The press has gone into hyperbolic overdrive criticizing the Trump administration for separating families caught illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. They clearly want the public, against all evidence, to believe that questionable processing of illegal-immigrant children and their families only began after Donald Trump took office last year.

But in January 2016, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and a Senate committee issued lengthy reports about unaccompanied children who were released to human traffickers. White House reporters, particularly at AP, utterly failed to push the Obama administration over how this was allowed to happen.

The children involved ended up in exploitative situations and worse specifically because Obama's Department of Health and Human Services deliberately relaxed sponsor vetting procedures.

Garance Burke's 1,880-word AP report originally appeared on January 24, 2016, and has a January 25 time stamp at Following a deceptive headline implying nothing bad had yet happened ("harmed" should have replaced "imperil"), Burke's first five paragraphs introduced many awful specifics to come:


Burke identified instances of forced labor, abuse, and starvation, and spoke with professionals who "cited cases in which unaccompanied children were raped ..."

Web Archive searches indicate that AP front-paged this story at its then-main "Big Story" site for about 36 hours.

On January 26, Abbie VanSickle's 2,500-word Post report appeared with similar overall findings, accompanied by detail about children exploited at an Ohio egg farm. With little basis, the article's headline treated the problems as entirely in the past:


The late-January report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations observed that HHS hadn't taken its duties seriously until just days earlier — "Effective January 25, 2016, HHS has strengthened its background check policies."

Additionally, HHS disclaimed any legal responsibility for following up on the well-being of children released:


If problems of this nature had been discovered in 2017 or 2018, the press would certainly (and properly) be applying pressure on the Trump administration for answers and policy responses. But in 2016, the White House press corps did not ask Press Secretary Josh Earnest about the press reports or the Senate committee's findings in three straight briefings, until an unidentified reporter named Mary asked a pathetically weak question on Monday, February 1. It got an equally weak response, with no follow-up:


It's especially galling that AP reporters at Earnest's briefings who were, as was then the custom, granted the privilege of asking the opening questions — Darlene Superville on January 27, Kathleen Hennessey on January 28, Josh Lederman on January 29, and Kevin Freking on February 1 — never asked Earnest about their own reporter's damning investigative work:


Recent media hysteria over current conditions and policies at detention centers cannot be squared with the press's obvious disinterest in holding the Obama administration accountable for releasing children to human traffickers, abusers, and rapists when exposed in early 2016. This media negligence was almost certainly agenda-driven then, so it's very reasonable to believe that the current hysteria is agenda-driven now.

Cross-posted at