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E&C Democrats to Azar: What is the Trump Administration Doing to Reunite the 545 Children Who Remain Separated from Their Parents?

Oct 23, 2020
Press Release
“This unfathomable nightmare is still unfolding more than two years later and continuing to afflict undue harm on its victims.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today asking what actions, if any, the Trump Administration is taking to help reunite the 545 children who remain separated from their parents.

“We write again following another troubling development in the Trump Administration’s cruel policy of family separations – news that the parents of 545 children have still not been located,” the Committee leaders wrote to Azar. “This is shocking and we want to know what actions, if any, the Administration is taking to assist in locating and reuniting these families that have now been separated for more than two years.” 

In their letter, the Committee leaders pointed to congressional testimony by child development experts that even brief family separations can have long-lasting traumatic psychological effects on children. Despite these serious effects on children, the Trump Administration does not appear to be taking responsibility for reuniting them with their parents, many of whom the Administration deported to Central America without their children.

“When a U.S. District Court ordered that the families be reunited, the Administration refused to take the responsibility for putting these families back together, and instead suggested that immigrant rights groups should do the work,” Pallone, Eshoo and DeGette explained. “That work continues, with apparently little assistance from the Administration. The difficulties in locating parents of separated children have only been compounded by the Administration’s failure to keep adequate records of the children separated under this policy.”

The Democrats also noted that Azar has not responded to their September letter questioning whether he attended a White House meeting where senior Administration officials reportedly voted on whether to proceed with family separation. The three Committee leaders continued in their letter that “[i]f you did not attend that meeting, your answer to us would be simple – but you have not responded.”

As part of their inquiry, the Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions, including:

  • What actions, if any, is the Administration taking to assist in locating and reuniting the parents of these 545 children who remain separated more than two years after this cruel policy ended?
  • How many of these 545 children who have not had their parents located were separated during the family separation “pilot program” that was in effect prior to the “Zero Tolerance” policy?
  • What has been told to these 545 children about the whereabouts of their parents and when they will be reunited?

To read the full letter, click HERE.