Press Release

E&C Republicans Question HHS About Management, Treatment, and Reunification Efforts of Children in Custody


Letter Builds Off of Committee’s Oversight of ORR Program, Dating Back to 2014 

WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans today sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the management, treatment, and reunification of unaccompanied alien children (UAC).

“We support strong enforcement of our nation’s borders. We also support keeping families together, and believe that children should not be separated from their parents,” wrote the members. “We also seek to ensure that children who are within the custody of ORR—whether because they crossed the border as an unaccompanied minor or because they crossed the border with a family member and were subsequently separated—are properly cared for while within the custody of ORR.”

Among the list of questions posed to HHS, the committee members asked how many of these children have been reunited with their families, and what action is being taken to track and address reports of abuse within HHS’ facilities.

The committee members also wrote, “The committee investigated ORR’s management and treatment of UAC beginning in 2014 after the dramatic surge in border crossings by UAC from Central America as well as a series of reports and records that were released by the Houston Chronicle regarding allegations of abuse, including sexual abuse, of minors in HHS custody.  … In the course of this investigation, the Committee sent three letters to HHS raising grave concerns about the treatment of children while in the custody of ORR, and the then-lack of follow up to ensure that children were cared for properly after being placed with a sponsor.  The Committee also requested documents and answers to detailed questions, and, in 2014, held a bipartisan roundtable for members on issues related to UAC. Given HHS’ historical difficulties in properly caring for UAC, the Committee believes that additional scrutiny of ORR is warranted at this time.”

Earlier this week in a #SubHealth markup, an amendment was adopted by a unanimous 29-0 vote that requires weekly reports to the committee and a formal strategy regarding HHS’ efforts to reunite these children with their families and address challenges previously identified by the committee.

The letter was signed by:

  • Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR)
  • Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS)
  • Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX)
  • Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
  • Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL)
  • Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH)
  • Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA)
  • Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX)
  • Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
  • Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)
  • Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX)
  • Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV)
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
  • Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA)
  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
  • Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)
  • Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)
  • Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN)
  • Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX)
  • Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
  • Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
  • Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC)
  • Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)
  • Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
  • Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
  • Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA)
  • Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA)
  • Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA)
  • Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC)

Click HERE to read a copy of the letter.

Press Release