Sen. Cornyn, Rep. Cuellar question Homeland Security on immigration

Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar have written questioning the Secretary of Homeland Security about the immigration humanitarian crisis in the Rio Grande Valley.

They are expecting an answer from Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, by July 2nd.

The children who have made this journey are alone and vulnerable"facing the threat of murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual slavery, and forced labor at the hands of these savage criminal organization, the letter addressed to Johnson says.

The letter addressed to Johnson comes after resent influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border illegally.

The letter addresses drug cartel controlled regions immigrants are traveling through to get to the US on their treacherous journey.

Thousands of unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the border.

This is especially troubling given the recent increase in the number of unaccompanied alien children who are girls and who are under the age of 13, the congressman and senator wrote.

Sen. Cornyn is a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refuges, and Border Security, and Rep. Cuellar is on the House Appropriates Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

The questions the senator and congressman addressed to Johnson are as follows:

1. Do you agree that the human smuggling networks and corridors being used by unaccompanied children are operated by drug cartels, who regularly engage in sex trafficking, kidnapping, child exploitation, and murder? Is travel through these corridors ever safe for an unaccompanied child?

2. Since October 2013, approximately 50,000 unaccompanied alien children have been apprehended at our Southern border"the majority of whom began their journey in Central America. If 50,000 of these children were able to make the long and dangerous journey to our Southern border, we are concerned that many never made it to America because of murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, or other violent crime. Does the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have any estimates of the number of unaccompanied alien children who suffered this fate?

3. What percentage of unaccompanied alien children apprehended at the Southern Border this Fiscal Year were the victims of violent crime or exploitation while traveling through Mexico?

4. What percentage of unaccompanied alien children apprehended at the Southern Border during this Fiscal Year applied for asylum? What percentage of these children received such relief?

5. What is the average age of the unaccompanied alien children who have illegally crossed the Southern Border since October 2013? How does DHS verify that all persons claiming to be an unaccompanied alien child are, in fact, less than 18 years of age?

6. How many unaccompanied alien children with criminal records, gang affiliations, or suspected involvement in criminal activity have been apprehended at the Southern Border this Fiscal Year? Does DHS transfer these individuals to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) custody prior to the completion of their removal proceedings?

7. How many unaccompanied alien children who have been released from DHS custody with a Notice to Appear this Fiscal Year have absconded from their immigration court proceedings? How many have been paroled into the United States? How many have voluntarily departed the United States? How many have been subjected to expedited removal?

8. Does DHS have any measures in places to track unaccompanied children after they are placed in the custody of HHS or a guardian designated by that Department? If not, then how does your Department help ensure that they do not end up in the hands of predators or sex offenders? If the child does not show up for their immigration court proceedings, do DHS officials check up on them to make sure that they are safe? Do DHS and HHS share any information about the child TMs guardian or whereabouts after they are released from HHS custody?

9. Has the surge in illegal border crossers and the number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended by DHS diverted critical resources away from your Department TMs border security and national security objectives? What is your Department TMs plan to ensure than transnational criminal organizations do not exploit the vulnerabilities exposed by the crisis on our Southern border?

10. To date, what is the estimated financial impact of this crisis on our home state of Texas? What are you doing to ensure that Texas officials are reimbursed for the costs imposed on them by your Department TMs failure to control the border?

11. How many unaccompanied alien children do you estimate that DHS will apprehend at the Southern Border during Fiscal Year 2014? Do you estimate that this number will increase in Fiscal Year 2015, and if so, by how much?

12. What process is available for state and local entities and non-profit organizations to offer their services and facilities to assist in this effort?

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