Lance Questions HHS About Management, Treatment and Reunification Efforts of Children in Custody
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07) and members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the management, treatment and reunification of unaccompanied alien children (UAC). View the letter HERE.
“We support strong enforcement of our nation’s borders. We also support keeping families together, and believe that children should not be separated from their parents,” wrote the lawmakers. “We also seek to ensure that children who are within the custody of ORR—whether because they crossed the border as an unaccompanied minor or because they crossed the border with a family member and were subsequently separated—are properly cared for while within the custody of ORR.”
Among the list of questions posed to HHS, the committee members asked how many of these children have been reunited with their families, and what action is being taken to track and address reports of abuse within HHS’ facilities.
The committee members also wrote, “The committee investigated ORR’s management and treatment of UAC beginning in 2014 after the dramatic surge in border crossings by UAC from Central America as well as a series of reports and records that were released by the Houston Chronicle regarding allegations of abuse, including sexual abuse, of minors in HHS custody. … In the course of this investigation, the Committee sent three letters to HHS raising grave concerns about the treatment of children while in the custody of ORR, and the then-lack of follow up to ensure that children were cared for properly after being placed with a sponsor. The Committee also requested documents and answers to detailed questions, and, in 2014, held a bipartisan roundtable for members on issues related to UAC. Given HHS’ historical difficulties in properly caring for UAC, the Committee believes that additional scrutiny of ORR is warranted at this time.”
Last week during a meeting of the Health Subcommittee, Lance supported an amendment to legislation requiring weekly updates to the committee and a formal strategy regarding HHS’ efforts to reunite these children with their families.