June 27, 2018

Senator Hassan Presses HHS Official on Trump Administration Family Separation Policy and Urgent Need for Immediate Reunification

Senator Emphasizes Devastating Long-Term Health Impacts Family Separation Has on Children

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Click here for footage of the Senator’s remarks.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today participated in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, where she pressed Brian Ritchie of the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families at the border and emphasized the urgent need to immediately reunite children with their parents. The Senator also noted the long-term health impacts family separation has on children.

“Pediatricians, psychologists, and health professionals have been raising the alarm about the irreparable harm – including brain development and long-term behavioral health issues – that forcibly separating children from their parents can cause,” Senator Hassan said. “We must strengthen border security, but we have to do that in a way remaining true to our American values…The President created this crisis – and unfortunately his executive order seems to have created even more confusion, at HHS and other agencies scrambling to implement it.”

When asked by Senator Hassan if the Office of the Inspector General plans to investigate the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) response to the Administration’s practice of separating children and parents, Mr. Ritchie responded, “What we have ongoing right now and planned, we are planning nationwide work that is going to focus on the health and safety of the children in the facilities. It’s underway, so the plan is in place. In fact we had sort of boots on the ground investigators, auditors last week at four facilities and they’re back now in the office planning the work…We also are wrapping up some work at 11 facilities and looking at the health and safety controls that were in place, that actually is prior to 2018, but it is going to serve as the launching point to here.”

In response, Senator Hassan concluded, “What is happening to these children today, now, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, month that they are separated from their parents is doing them irreparable harm. And I would hope and expect that the Department reprioritize as necessary to get, not only boots on the ground to find out what is happening, but also to develop a policy that is consistent and reflects the urgency and the priority that the American people place on reuniting these children. Certainly the government of the United States of America can reunite 2,000 children – and it’s a little bit over 2,000 children if Secretary Azar’s testimony yesterday was correct.”

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