With ‘Sound of Freedom’ protagonist at his side, Smith pushes bill to track down unaccompanied minors

Smith says bill is needed to protect thousands of immigrant children from abuse, trafficking

By Joey Fox, September 12 2023

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) promoted legislation today that would require the federal government to report on its efforts to locate approximately 85,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally, and he was joined by a relevant celebrity: Tim Ballard, the inspiration for the movie Sound of Freedom.

“Due to the failed open-border policies of the Biden administration, we now must address the tens of thousands, really hundreds of thousands, of unaccompanied minors now at risk for trafficking and abuse,” Smith said at a press conference with Ballard outside the U.S. Capitol Building.

According to Smith, of the approximately 345,000 unaccompanied children who have crossed the southern border since 2021, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has lost contact with as many as 85,000 of them after placing them with sponsors. That sets up a situation in which thousands of children may be vulnerable to human trafficking, Smith said.

“[Government officials] don’t know where they are,” he said. “Their well-being and whereabouts are completely unknown. Without any sources of contact, these children – many of whom have endured countless risks – could be in immediate and grave danger, and at risk of death, child exploitation, and abuse.”

Smith’s bill, the Safeguarding Endangered Children, Unaccompanied, and at Risk of Exploitation (SECURE) Act, was first proposed in July. If enacted, it would direct the federal government to issue a report on its attempts to find unaccompanied minors, conduct wellness checks, and investigate possible signs of human trafficking.

When the bill was initially floated, House leaders like Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) sounded positive about the idea. But it likely faces a rockier path in the Democratic-controlled Senate, not to mention the desk of President Joe Biden, whose own administration would be impacted by the bill.

Ballard – whose efforts to rescue children from traffickers in Colombia were chronicled in Sound of Freedom, a surprising hit movie from earlier this year – said that attempts to locate the children need to be paired with tougher policies on the southern border.

“Enforce the laws, and the vacuum disappears,” Ballard said. “You suck the wind out of the sails of child traffickers. They will no longer kidnap children and bring them to our border if the borders aren’t open – it’s very simple. It all goes back to the policy: enforce the borders.”

With ‘Sound of Freedom’ protagonist at his side, Smith pushes bill to track down unaccompanied minors – New Jersey Globe