More than 400 unaccompanied children who have been caught crossing the Mexican border into the United States are reportedly in Chicago in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said Thursday.
Kirk wants to know whether any of the 429 unaccompanied minors have criminal backgrounds, according to a news release from his office. The release does not state where the minors are being held in Chicago.
"I just learned that 429 unaccompanied minors from the Mexican border crisis are now in Chicago and currently in Health and Human Services custody, but our State Department is unable to confirm if any of these individuals has a criminal record or background," Kirk said. "If any of these individuals has a criminal record in their home country, our government owes it to the American people to facilitate a sharing of records and reassure our nation that these individuals pose no threat."
Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children from Central American countries have been caught crossing the Mexican border into the United States.
Kirk sent letters Thursday to the U.S. ambassadors to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador asking whether their embassies have performed criminal background checks on the unaccompanied children who have entered the United States.
The letter states:
As a member on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, I respectfully request that you provide information on whether your Embassy has performed any criminal background checks on the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who are entering the United States in record numbers from (Guatemala). The recent surge of UAC’s crossing the United States’ southern border is a humanitarian crisis, which also has the potential to present a serious threat to our country and communities should they have criminal records in their home country. While many of these children travel to the United States to escape dangerous and violent situations, I am concerned that among those admitted into the country and transferred to Health and Human Services (HHS) are individuals guilty of crimes in their home country.
Further, in the case that background checks are not currently being conducted, I urge you to establish an agreement with the government of Guatemala and local law enforcement to facilitate in the sharing of criminal records pertaining to those illegally crossing our borders.
I look forward to your response and working with you on this important issue.