“Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that his department had custody of 2,047 migrant children who had been separated from their parents.
Before releasing the children to parents or other relatives, he said, the government must “vet them.” That task can take weeks, officials said.
“These children are often being captured by traffickers, gangs, cartels,” Mr. Azar said. “That journey through Mexico is a horrific journey of rape and violence and deprivation. We do see traffickers and very evil people sometimes claiming to be the parents of children.”..
“We’re not allowed to have a child be with the parent who is in custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than 20 days,” Mr. Azar said. “And so, until we can get Congress to change that law to — the forcible separation of the family units — we’ll hold them or place them with another family relative in the United States.”
“We need Congress to fix that,” Mr. Azar said.
Mr. White said the Department of Health and Human Services was also holding, in its shelters, about 9,000 children who did not have a legal immigration status and were not accompanied by parents or guardians.” (A)
“Dozens of law enforcement officials from both parties wrote an open letter to top lawmakers on Wednesday urging them to adopt alternatives to the Trump administration’s policy of detaining immigrant families…
The officials wrote that while they were encouraged by President Trump’s order ending the policy of separating immigrant families at the border, they “do not believe that across-the-board family detention is the solution to family separation.”
“Most families do not pose a threat to the community at large and, accordingly, our juvenile detention system is designed around keeping the family together,” the letter reads.
The letter noted “risks to children’s physical and emotional development posed by prolonged detention,” and stated that “most” families “pose no threat to their communities.”
The officials also highlighted a cancelled Obama-era pilot program meant to keep immigrant families together and out of detention as a possible solution. The Trump administration cancelled the program last year, citing high costs.” (B)
“The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) inspector general is launching a review of the conditions at the agency’s shelters for unaccompanied migrant children.
The probe will only focus on safety and health concerns, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Wednesday.
“Specifically, this review will focus on a variety of safety- and health-related issues such as employee background screening, employees’ clinical skills and training, identification and response to incidents of harm, and facility security,” the OIG said.
The inspector general’s office said it will review the efforts of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) “to ensure the safety and health of children placed at ORR facilities, especially when the program experiences a sudden increase in the number of children placed in its care.”
The federal watchdog said it will deploy teams of evaluators, auditors, investigators and lawyers on site-visits to ORR facilities across the country.” (C)
“HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday defended the administration’s tracking system, claiming that parents should be able to locate their children “within seconds” using an online government database. He said hundreds of children separated at the border have been placed with a parent or relative, though more than 2,000 kids remain in his department’s care.
The agencies also face logistical challenges as they work to put families back together. Bob Carey, who ran ORR under President Barack Obama, told POLITICO’s “Pulse Check” podcast on Tuesday that “all the systems” in the refugee office were developed to reunite children with parents who were already in the United States.
That’s very different from trying to reunify a child with a parent who may be in a detention facility,” he said.” (D)
“IN THE FACE of the Trump administration’s neglect and indifference toward the reunification of the thousands of immigrant families it has forcibly separated, some lawmakers, activists, and celebrities have called for the use of DNA testing, along with other biometrics, as a means to return some 3,700 children to their parents. So far, at least two direct-to-consumer genealogy companies have heeded those calls. MyHeritage and 23andMe have both offered to donate DNA sampling kits for the purposes of verifying kinship…
The founder of Silicon Valley startup 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki, tweeted that the company had reached out to RAICES, a prominent Texas-based immigrant aid group, who has been working on family reunifications for over 30 years. RAICES, however, sees the well-intentioned offer as potentially creating more problems than it solves.
“We appreciate the offer, but that’s not a strategy that we really agree with,” Jennifer Falcon, communications director at RAICES, told The Intercept. “These are already vulnerable communities, and this would potentially put their information at risk with the very people detaining them. They’re looking to solve one violation of civil rights with something that could cause another violation of civil rights.” (E)
“Melania Trump boarded a plane in Washington, D.C, Thursday morning en route to Arizona where she met with Border Patrol officials and visited a Phoenix shelter for migrant children…
“I’m here to support you and give my help wherever I can,” Trump said.
After a round-table discussion, during which the first lady heard from officials who work along the border, the first lady was given a tour of the US Customs and Border Protection Facility in Tucson.
Similar to her visit to Tucson, the first lady took part in a round table where she heard from officials at the Phoenix facility.
“It’s great to be here,” Trump said to the group. “I wanted to come here and see your facility and meet the children. And wanted to thank all of you for what you do.”
Trump said she was there to “support” them, adding “let me know what I can do to help you.”
The first lady asked several questions regarding the children: how many were there in the facility, what are their ages and how long do they typically stay in the facility.” (F)
“The Trump administration has more than 2,000 children it separated from their parents in its custody. In a six-day span, that number only went down by six children.
It’s still unknown, though, whether those children were reunited with parents, other family or otherwise transferred out of Health and Human Services custody, and the government has not answered questions about the circumstances of their release.” (G)
(A) Trump Administration Cites Difficulties in Meeting Judge’s Timetable for Family Reunification, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/us/politics/trump-immigration-borders-family-separation.html
(B) Police chiefs group opposes Trump policy detaining immigrant families, by JACQUELINE THOMSEN, http://thehill.com/latino/394508-police-chiefs-come-out-against-trump-policy-detaining-immigrant-families
(C) HHS watchdog launches probe into conditions at child detention centers, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/394507-hhs-ig-launches-investigation-into-conditions-at-child-detention?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202018-06-28%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:15973%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive,
(D) Federal officials launch two reviews into Trump’s handling of migrant children, by DAN DIAMOND, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/27/trump-border-migrant-children-investigation-680626
(E) DNA TESTING MIGHT HELP REUNITE FAMILIES SEPARATED BY TRUMP. BUT IT COULD CREATE A PRIVACY NIGHTMARE, by Ava Kofman, https://theintercept.com/2018/06/27/immigration-families-dna-testing/
(F) From Tucson to Phoenix: Melania Trump tours immigration facilities in Arizona, https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/from-tucson-to-phoenix-melania-trump-tours-immigration-facilities-in-arizona/75-568631380
(G) In 6 Days, Trump Admin Reunited Only 6 Immigrant Children With Their Families, http://ktla.com/2018/06/27/in-6-days-trump-admin-reunited-only-6-immigrant-children-with-their-families/