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Pallone on HHS Inspector General Report on Family Separation

Mar 5, 2020
Press Release
Watchdog Report Faults HHS Leadership for Failing to Raise Alarm Before Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)  issued the following statement today in response to the latest report from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the Trump Administration’s creation and handling of the family separation crisis:

“Nearly two years after the Trump Administration officially unleashed its cruel Family Separation Policy, we continue to learn more about the failures of senior Administration officials involved in this policy.  Today’s independent watchdog report confirms the Committee’s previous findings that senior HHS leadership were warned about increasing separations before the official announcement of the Zero Tolerance policy but failed to sound the alarm.

“The Committee has sent numerous letters to HHS over the last couple of years asking questions and requesting documents regarding HHS’s role in creating and implementing the Family Separation Policy.  Although HHS still has not fully responded to that investigation, the Committee previously released documents showing ORR career staff raised concerns with senior leaders about the impact of a family separation policy.  Now, with today’s OIG report, we know that HHS leadership failed to act on those concerns, and that those failures had negative consequences on the children in their care – including illegal prolonged detention of children, and emotional and psychological stress on separated children.

“Democratic Committee leaders have repeatedly raised concerns that HHS and ORR leadership have allowed the agency to cruelly implement the Trump Administration’s inhumane immigration enforcement campaign.  Leadership refused to support career staff that were working to fulfill HHS’s mission to protect the public health and to prioritize the best interests of the children in its custody.  Recent reports raise new concerns that HHS leadership continues to abdicate its responsibility to stand up for the mission of ORR and speak out when Trump Administration policies are not in the best interest of these vulnerable children in our government’s care.

“This Committee will continue to investigate these issues and hold this Administration accountable.”