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E&C Leaders Demand HHS Provide Information Following Alarming New Reports on Family Separation

Jan 18, 2019
Press Release
“Instead of prioritizing what is in the best interest of the children in HHS’s custody, you have allowed your agency to be turned into a mechanism for immigration enforcement.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today requesting internal documents following a series of alarming reports yesterday on the agency’s role in the Trump Administration’s family separation crisis.

“These troubling reports raise new questions as to whether the Trump Administration was engaging in family separations earlier than it reported as well as HHS’s role in creating and implementing the Family Separation Policy,” the Committee leaders wrote to Secretary Azar.

Yesterday, the HHS Office of Inspector General issued a damning new report indicating that thousands more children may have been separated from their families in the months prior to the Administration’s official implementation of the Family Separation Policy.

Additionally, NBC News released a purported Trump Administration document last night that appears to suggest the Administration targeted migrant families for separation and that HHS may have shared background check information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to place potential sponsors for separated children into deportation proceedings.

Concerns have been raised that the policy to share information between HHS and DHS regarding potential sponsors has led to family members being reluctant to come forward, thereby leading to children being in HHS custody longer, the exact consequence that was contemplated by Administration officials,” Pallone and DeGette continued in their letter. “We are concerned that instead of prioritizing what is in the best interest of the children in HHS’s custody, you have allowed your agency to be turned into a mechanism for immigration enforcement.”  

As part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy and HHS’s care for children, Pallone and DeGette are requesting a series of documents, including:

  • All documents and communications among and/or between HHS, DHS, the Department of Justice, and the Executive Office of the President regarding family separations from May 1, 2017, through June 27, 2018;
  • All documents and communications from May 1, 2017, through April 14, 2018, regarding the Memorandum of Agreement among ORR and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection regarding consultation and information sharing in unaccompanied alien children matters that was signed on April 13, 2018; and
  • All analyses regarding the decision in June 2018 to require all adults in potential sponsor households to submit fingerprints as well as the decision in December 2018 to no longer require all adults in potential sponsors to submit fingerprints.

The Committee is requesting a response by February 1, 2019.

Pallone and DeGette are also planning to hold an oversight hearing on the Family Separation Policy in the coming weeks. 

The letter is available HERE.

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