WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that they are proposing amendments to the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill to hold the Trump administration accountable for its family separation policy, and to improve the quality of care for migrant children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an office in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Nearly a month after the court-ordered deadline to reunite families – and at least 10 months after the administration first began separating children from their families at the border – President Trump and his administration have utterly failed to correct this inhumane debacle,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy has torn apart families and caused unconscionable harm to separated children, many of whom are still being in held in an environment that is ripe for exploitation.”
“In June, I toured a temporary tent facility in Tornillo, Texas, where I saw firsthand the chaos the president created and the terrible consequences of family separation for these children,” Udall continued. “It is a legal and moral imperative to reunite separated children with their parents – but the Trump administration has failed to execute a meaningful plan for full family reunification. And while these children are in federal custody, we must mandate that ORR ensure their physical, mental, and emotional health.”
“The permanent trauma President Trump’s zero-tolerance policies inflicted on parents and their innocent children, many of whom are refugees fleeing violence and seeking asylum, is inhumane,” said Heinrich. “There is still no clear plan from the White House to ensure they will make sure every child is reunited with their family. This amendment is about holding the White House accountable for adhering to our laws, to American values, and for executing a clear plan to right this horrific wrong.”
According to court documents filed last week by the ACLU, more than 565 children who were separated from their parents remain under federal supervision.
Udall and Heinrich’s amendments are designed to hold ORR accountable for migrant children under its care:
- HHS and ORR Transparency: Udall’s amendment would require that HHS make information about the number and status of children in its care available publicly on its website on a monthly basis, and also to provide weekly public updates on its website of the number of children who have been reunited with separated family members. This amendment builds on report language that Udall successfully included in the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill.
- Requiring Reporting of Abuses at ORR Shelters: This amendment instructs ORR to report allegations of child abuse at ORR shelters to the FBI under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990. It would also compel ORR to track and report incidents of abuse to Congress on an annual basis. Finally, it would allow children in federal custody to place phone calls with complaints of abuse or harassment.
- Improving Conditions in ORR Temporary Facilities: This amendment requires ORR to provide the full range of services and same level of care at temporary facilities housing unaccompanied minors that is required at permanent facilities.