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E&C Democrats Demand Hearing on Child Detention Centers

Jun 20, 2018
Press Release
“These children are at serious risk of suffering harm and severe trauma, and it is of utmost importance that we hear from all parties involved in their care”

All 24 Energy and Commerce Democrats sent a letter to full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) today demanding an immediate hearing on the wellbeing of the children being forcibly separated from their parents and families and placed into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). 

“The President’s policy is inhumane and should be reversed as soon as possible,” the Democrats wrote. “In the meantime, we must ensure that ORR is properly caring for these children until they can be reunited with their parents.”  

The Democrats’ continued, “These children are at serious risk of suffering harm and severe trauma, and it is of utmost importance that we hear from all parties involved in their care to ensure that HHS is taking every step necessary to protect their safety and wellbeing.” 

According to reports, ORR shelters are now operating at 95 percent capacity and it is not clear that HHS has adequate staff and resources to provide appropriate housing, food, clothing, counseling, and other necessities to all children in its care. The number of children in ORR’s custody is expected to increase by an additional 18,500 children—or nearly 30,000 children in total—by August. The agency is so overwhelmed that it has reportedly resorted  to housing children in a tent city in the desert outside of El Paso, Texas.

“To gain clarity on what children are being placed in ORR’s custody, how they are being cared for, and the long-term implications these policies may have on their health, we request that you hold a hearing as soon as possible,” the Democrats wrote.  “As part of this hearing, we urge you to invite key officials and other pediatric health care experts to testify regarding the chaos caused by this cruel policy.”  

The Democrats also raised experts’ concerns that it is impossible to mitigate the serious trauma caused by the Trump Administration’s decision to forcibly separate them from their parents regardless of the conditions inside of the ORR facilities.  Last week, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that this separation risks causing “irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture.”

The letter was signed by every Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee: Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

The letter is available HERE.