WASHINGTON, D.C. – A top Health and Human Services official told Congress on Tuesday that he and others repeatedly warned the Trump administration that its policy of separating immigrant families apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border would not be in “the best interest of the child.”
Jonathan White, with the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“During the deliberative process over the previous year, we raised a number of concerns in the (Office of Refugee Resettlement) program about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child as well as about whether that would be operationally supportable with the bed capacity that we have,” White testified.
White said he is now working to reunite more than 400 kids with their families “as quickly as humanly possible.” The parents of these children were deported without their kids.
Click here to read the story in USA Today.
Meanwhile the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked federal investigators to examine allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of immigrants held at government detention facilities, saying the mistreatment may have been occurring since 2014 or earlier.
In a letter, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote:
“These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed. This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years. Immigrant families and children kept in federal custody deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect and should never be subjected to these forms of abuse.”
The letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest “a long-term pattern” of mistreatment. Those reports describe claims of abuse over the last few years.
Click here to read about the Grassley/Feinstein letter in Voice of America News.
Two of the Rio Grande Valley’s three members of Congress, Reps. Filemon Vela of Brownsville and Henry Cuellar of Laredo, meanwhile, have blasted the Trump Administration for failing to meet a second deadline to reunite separated children with their parents.
“As the deadline to reunite separated families has come and gone, the human cost of the Trump Administration’s actions is becoming even more apparent,” Vela said. “Those children who have been returned to their parents will face psychological scars that may never heal, and over 700 children, who entered this country with a family member, remain alone in shelters all over the country without a discernible plan to reunite them now, or ever.”
A news release from Vela stated that in recent weeks, Trump Administration officials “peddled a false narrative” claiming that many of the children entering the country were traveling, not with parents, but with human traffickers pretending to be parents in order to enter the country.
The Vela news release said that as the facts have proved this claim to be false, “it is has become clear that the real threat to these children is posed by the Trump Administration itself.” With the parents of over 400 children deported while their sons and daughters continue to be held in US custody, the Trump Administration’s actions seem more and more like those of traffickers, the news release stated.
“Make no mistake, this is a crisis entirely of the Trump Administration’s own making, and there is no one to blame for the abuse of these children but the White House,” Vela said. “I have seen firsthand the impact of the hateful “zero tolerance” policy combined with incompetence and utter lack of accountability. Our nation is better than this, and I will not stop until every child is reunited with their family.”
For his part, Rep. Cuellar said: “The Trump administration has now missed two court-imposed deadlines to reunify immigrant families who were separated as a result of the Zero-tolerance policy. Under the order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, the Trump administration identified 2,551 children above the age of 5 who may be eligible to be reunified with their parents. It is time that we reunite these children, and we must do so quickly.”
Cuellar said he remains concerned about the continued separation and reunification of immigrant families. He said he wants to make clear that this is a result of President Trump’s drastic policies.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle towards closing loopholes and improving our immigration system, as well as finding humane ways to address the influx of immigrants into our country,” Cuellar added.
Cuellar issued stats on how the reunification of children and parents is going. Here they are:
PARENTS ELIGIBLE FOR REUNIFICATION: 1,634
—879 parents successfully reunified in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. A government attorney said in court that the number had risen to 1,012 by Tuesday.
—538 parents cleared and awaiting transportation.
—217 parents released into the United States.
PARENTS NOT ELIGIBLE OR NOT YET CURRENTLY ELIGIBLE: 917
—463 parents who may have been deported. The government says case notes indicate they are no longer in U.S. and are “under review.”
—260 parents undergoing review.
—130 parents waived reunification. The American Civil Liberties Union claims some parents did not understand they were waiving away rights.
—64 parents with a “prohibitive criminal record or deemed ineligible” by authorities.
(Source: Justice Department filing, statements in court)