WASHINGTON, D.C. ― The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program after U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich sent a letter to the Office of Inspector General requesting they look into the issue.
The request for an investigation follows weeks of uncertainty about the Health Department’s ability to appropriately care for children placed in its custody as a result of President Trump’s family separation policy, as well as the Department’s lack of clarity around plans to reunite children and parents.
“We write to request a comprehensive review of the operations of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program, particularly focused on how the Office has approached and responded to President Trump’s family separation policy. We are alarmed by the uncertainty and pain inflicted on thousands of families arriving at the U.S. border, particularly the mental and physical harm inflicted on immigrant children and their parents by this policy, and we are deeply troubled by recent reports of maltreatment of children while under ORR custody. While we are encouraged by the announcement of recent efforts to prioritize family reunification, we also have significant questions about how the Department is working to accomplish this goal. It is equally important that we understand what measures, if any, HHS undertook to prioritize the health, safety, and wellbeing of children in its custody as it implemented the family separation policy, both before and after President Trump’s June 20 Executive Order to reverse the policy,” wrote the senators.
The letter led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tom Carper (D-DE).