The United States federal government has become the “middleman” in a multi-billion dollar human trafficking operation targeting unaccompanied minors at the southern border, a whistleblower told Congress’s House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Tara Lee Rodas volunteered to help with Operation Artemis, a plan by the Biden Administration to get control of the humanitarian disaster on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021.
“I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes,” Rodas said. “Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with being recruited in home country, smuggled to the US border, and ends when ORR delivers a child to a Sponsors – some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of Transnational Criminal Organizations.”
“Some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income – this is why we are witnessing an explosion of labor trafficking,” said Rodas.
Rodas’s testimony came during a hearing, “The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children,” held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security and Enforcement.
WATCH THE FULL TESTIMONY HERE
Rodas was deployed to the Pomona Fairplex Emergency Intake Site in California where she worked at a Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. Her job was to reunite children, a.k.a. unaccompanied minors, with their “sponsors” on the U.S. side of the border.
The Pomona Fairplex where Rodas witnessed the U.S. immigration system dealing with unaccompanied minors became an emergency shelter in 2021, housing up to 10,000 migrant children during that time. The shelter has since closed, but the pace of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border has not receded to pre-crisis levels.
“Whether intentional or not, it can be argued that the US Government has become the middleman in a large scale, multi-billion-dollar, child trafficking operation run by bad actors seeking to profit off the lives of children,” she said.
From her vantage point, Rodas saw many children reunited with “sponsors” whom she believed would go on to traffic those children. Sponsors are supposed to be family members or someone who will care for the children. But Rodas saw plenty of evidence that suggested predators and traffickers were posing as sponsors to gather human cargo
Rodas saw children who spoke only a dialect of Mayan reunited with sponsors who spoke only Spanish. She saw single apartment buildings that had taken in up to 50 unaccompanied children. She saw single sponsors collecting multiple children from different sites using several different addresses.
“I saw numerous cases of children in debt bondage and the child knew they had to stay with the sponsor until the debt was paid,” she said.
Although Rodas’ testimony has received muted coverage from the national media, the New York Times has published several detailed reports about the crisis of child migrant exploitation.
In February, for example, the NYT published a story showing how migrants who have recently arrived in the U.S. have been found laboring, in violation of child labor laws, in major U.S. factories.
Read Rodas’s full testimony below:
More on Operation Artemis: