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Udall, Heinrich Demand Judiciary Committee Hearing On Family Separation

Jul 11, 2018

Commentary: WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 11, 2018) – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to convene an oversight hearing on family separation and the Trump administration’s haphazard plan to reunite immigrant children with their parents.

The Senators’ letter to Chairman Grassley follows a troubling call last week with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar in which only three Senators were able to ask questions on HHS’ role in family detention and reunification, and no Senators were given an opportunity to ask questions of Secretary Azar. Yesterday, HHS missed a court-imposed deadline to reunite children under the age of five with their parents.

“We are deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s utter lack of preparedness to reunite children that it separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border and the callous manner in which it is treating this issue,” the Senators wrote. “The purpose of the call appeared to be for the Secretary to congratulate himself and the Administration for what a good job that the Department of Health and Human Services is doing.”

“We owe it to the American people to hold a hearing on one of the most pressing and agonizing issues facing our country,” the Senators continued. “The Senate Judiciary Committee has a duty to conduct proper oversight of how the Administration is going to fix this crisis that it created and reunify separated children with their parents.”

Senators Udall and Heinrich visited the border in June to demand a reunification plan for every child and hold the administration accountable for President Trump’s inhumane family separation policy.

The full letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Chuck Grassley 
Chairman Senate Judiciary Committee 
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building 
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley:

We joined a “Senators Only” call last Friday with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and we are deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s utter lack of preparedness to reunite children that it separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border and the callous manner in which it is treating this issue. The purpose of the call appeared to be for the Secretary to congratulate himself and the Administration for what a good job that the Department of Health and Human Services is doing. Moreover, only three Senators were able to ask questions—and this was only after Secretary Azar was no longer on the call. This hardly constitutes a meaningful opportunity to conduct oversight of the reunification process. Therefore, we are reiterating our prior request that the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on this issue.

We have written to you, some of us twice—on June 18, 2018 and June 20, 2018—to respectfully request an oversight hearing regarding the Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy resulting in the traumatic separation of children from their parents. We write again to respectfully urge you to hold an oversight hearing on the Administration’s process of reuniting these separated children with their parents.

We are gravely concerned that the Administration is unprepared, and possibly unwilling, to handle this crisis in a timely, thoughtful, and humane manner. Although a federal court has ordered the government to reunite separated children with their parents, there have been reports that the Administration is trying to be released from its obligation to reunite children whose parents the Administration has already deported. News reports have also described the Administration’s reunification efforts as chaotic, reporting that some of the records linking children to their parents have disappeared or been destroyed. This is particularly troubling given that reportedly children as young as 3 months old, who are unable to speak, have been separated from their parents under the Administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services initially reported that it had in its custody 2,047 children who had been separated from their parents, only to report a week later that the number of separated children in its custody may actually be under 3,000 children, including 100 children under the age of 5.

As some of us wrote you on June 18, 2018, we owe it to the American people to hold a hearing on one of the most pressing and agonizing issues facing our country. The Senate Judiciary Committee has a duty to conduct proper oversight of how the Administration is going to fix this crisis that it created and reunify separated children with their parents.

Thank you for your consideration.