Congressional Hispanic Caucus Demands Answers From Trump Administration On Family Reunification Timeline
WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, joined Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and members of CHC leadership in demanding updates on the remaining children in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody who are separated from their families. In a letter to ORR Director Scott Lloyd, the Members specifically asked for a meeting to discuss the Administration’s timeline for ensuring that reunification efforts are completed in a timely manner.
“It has been more than three months since a judge ordered the reunification of these children and nearly 200 children remain separated from their families. We would like to speak to you about the remaining separated children and the administration's timeline in ensuring timely completion of reunification of these families,” the Members wrote.
The letter was also signed by Second Vice Chair Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07); Whip Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31) and Freshman Representative Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).
Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.
October 1, 2018
Office of Refugee Resettlement
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
330 C. St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Mr. Lloyd:
We write to request a meeting with you to discuss a number of items of concern that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has had to undertake following the Trump administration’s policy changes on asylum-seeking children and families.
In early May, the Trump administration enacted the zero-tolerance policy and we saw more than 2,500 children separated from their families and placed in ORR custody. Following a national outcry, on June 20, Trump ended the policy of family separation and the task of reuniting these children with their parents began. It has been more than three months since a judge ordered the reunification of these children and nearly 200 children remain separated from their families. We would like to speak to you about the remaining separated children and the administration's timeline in ensuring timely completion of reunification of these families.
Additionally, recent reports indicate that ORR has the highest number of unaccompanied children in their custody ever recorded, with over 13,300 children held in ORR facilities in September ˗ a more than five-fold increase from the 2,400 children in ORR facilities in May 2017. This drastic increase is not due to a surge at the border, but rather ORR creating a bottleneck by slowing the release of children to family members and sponsors in the community.
A related factor that has slowed the release of children to family members is the May 2018 Memorandum of Agreement the Department of Health and Human Services ORR entered into with Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protections (CBP), which allows for the agencies to share information on unaccompanied children and the children’s family member or sponsor and for ICE to take enforcement actions against sponsors on the basis of such information. This policy change has created fear among family members and has discouraged them from working with ORR to ensure that these children are released to a close relative rather than remaining in ORR custody for months at a cost to taxpayers of up to $750 per day.
These policies have now resulted in HHS being forced to shift more than $446 million in funds from vital departments like the CDC and NIH that fund HIV/AIDS programs and cancer research to support the costly continued detention of children. The reallocation of these funds raises many concerns for our members, who are charged with funding critical health and research programs.
Given these concerning issues, we would like to meet with you to discuss what ORR is doing to ensure the safety of children in your custody, address the current backlog for fingerprint processing for sponsors, while also working to expedite the timely release of these children to family members or qualified, vetted sponsors.
Please contact Alma Acosta at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up this meeting at your earliest convenience.
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