House Oversight panel demands HHS turn over documents on Trump Administration’s child-separation policy
Washington, DC – The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations panel wasted no time in demanding that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar turn over to the committee’s investigators a series of internal documents detailing the agency’s role in carrying out the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border.
The chair of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), along with the chairman of the full committee, Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), made the request in a letter they sent to Azar today.
The move comes just one day after the HHS Office of Inspector General released an explosive new report that found there may have been thousands more children separated from their families at the border than previously known.
“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 lawmakers wrote.
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 in order to place potential sponsors of children separated at the border 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,” the lawmakers continued. “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.”
Specifically, DeGette and Pallone requested HHS provide the committee the following:
- 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 lawmakers requested that HHS provide the documents no later than Feb. 1, 2019.
DeGette announced she plans to hold an oversight hearing on the Trump administration’s Family Separation Policy in the coming weeks.
The lawmakers’ letter is available here