HHS reports 135 sexual misconduct incidents involving 'unaccompanied alien minors'

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released details of sexual misconduct involving unaccompanied alien minors in care-provider facilities, documenting more than 100 substantiated incidents from mid-2015 through the end of 2017.

At least 135 incidents were substantiated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of the HHS, with the vast majority involving offenses by an unaccompanied child against another, the HHS report said. Between June 24, 2015, and December 31, 2017, at least 12 of those incidents were committed by "care provider" staff -- a term referring to contractors, employees, foster parents, and volunteers in ORR-funded facilities, the department said.

"ORR takes allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously, and requires extraordinarily comprehensive reporting by all its care provider programs," Caroline Thorman, a spokesperson for Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which houses the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told Fox News. ACF clarified that care provider staff doesn't include any federal employees.

According to the reports, the agency responded by referring two care-provider staff members for prosecution. Two were arrested, including one who received 10 years in prison for attempting to coerce or entice an unaccompanied child to engage in illicit sexual activity.

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The data offered a glimpse into the minors' conditions as the United States struggled to deal with an influx of migrants coming to the United States. Democrats have been especially critical of the way the administration treats families on the southern border.

ORR aims at reuniting unaccompanied children with family members or a suitable sponsor but keeps them in care facilities for the interim period.

The reporting was mandated in a rule from December of 2014. It includes information on allegations, gender of the victims, follow-up services for those individuals and actions taken against the perpetrator. Members of Congress received an advance copy of the reporting on Friday.

"Care providers are required to identify qualified staff and integrate sexual abuse prevention into the applicant screening and selection process to weed out bad actors and ensure child safety," Thorman said.

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"ORR has robust reporting systems in place and the actions taken as a result of reporting is further evidence that ORR makes child safety the top priority in each and every facility."

The reporting defines "sexual misconduct" as anything from name-calling to inappropriate touching. Overall, the agency received 1,069 allegations of sexual misconduct for fiscal year 2017 but only a fraction of those were substantiated. The vast majority (79 percent) were unaccompanied child-on-unaccompanied child incidents, as was the case for the 1,779 allegations for the June 2015 to December 2016 period (86 percent) reported by HHS.