The recent mega hit movie “The Sound of Freedom” has brought attention to the reality of sex trafficking children internationally and the abuse they suffer. The movie screen is not the only place this crisis is playing out before our eyes but could be the only place it is being recognized by the public. Within the walls of Congress, the testimony of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra this week has sent many lawmakers into a tailspin regarding 85,000 missing children. We, as Christians, should certainly be as concerned and impacted regarding these missing children as many of us were by the movie. The movie is based on a true story. Many of these 85,000 children are living a similar nightmare right now. It could easily be their story.
According to available numbers from the federal government, over 130,000 minors crossed the border in 2022 without parents or guardians accompanying them. The reports indicate an estimated 85,000 of those unaccompanied minors are missing. The government has no knowledge of where they are located. Becerra acknowledged the “reports that have flagged an increase in children being employed illegally and exploited by companies are real, repulsive, and unacceptable,” according to his own statements to Congress during the testimony. However, he seemed to shirk responsibility for the missing 85,000 by saying, “HHS’s custodial responsibility for unaccompanied children legally ends once we place them in the custody of a vetted sponsor.” Most are not released to a verified parent but are released to “vetted sponsors”. The sponsor could be any adult with any motive.
He also admitted that HHS does not contact local Department of Social Services or Department of Children’s Services when the minors cross the border without a guardian. He said it was in the interest of protecting the privacy of the children that other state government agencies were not employed to assist. In exchange for the “privacy protection”, HHS forfeits these children’s ability to be protected and, as a result, the children vanish. Many of them end up being sex trafficked, abused, and are forced laborers by cartels and sex traffickers.
The hearing had several references to “The Sound of Freedom” movie while trying to determine what has happened to these children. It is appalling that Beccera, a Catholic, appeared to be complicit or ignorant of the severe problems and dangers these children face. It is despicable that he could so easily dismiss it as “not our responsibility.” As human beings it should be our responsibility to ensure children are protected. It is the entire reason state governments have departments such as the Department of Social Services or Department of Children’s Services. It is the sole purpose for your tax dollars funding such departments and investigators. Yet, Becerra seems to be content with no follow-up to ensure these children are safe and no reports to local state governments to seek monitoring and provide social services to the children. There is no caring for the orphans.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
On the other hand, church leaders remain silent once again. It appears they are only able to speak and figure out they have a voice when it is advocating for allowing the migration of undocumented immigrants. They only use their vocal cords when the issue is favorable toward their own political party and preferences. Meanwhile, 85,000 children are missing, and we hear crickets from the clergy.
Christians should be united in prayer for these children. We should demand these children be located and their safety ensured. Regardless of if you support the migration of undocumented immigrants at the border or you oppose it, we should all be able to agree that these children are in danger and need to be protected. They are innocent and helpless. It is not a Catholic exclusive responsibility or obligation. It is a human responsibility. We should do better because the Lord requires better. We should care because Christ weeps at the abuse of these children.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
What are we doing if we do not care about 85,000 missing children?