HHS must end its complicity with the abuse and neglect of immigrant children

HHS must end its complicity with the abuse and neglect of immigrant children

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Lisa Kunkel started this petition to Office of Refugee Resettlement E. Scott Lloyd, Director and

The Department of Health and Human Services houses the Administration of Children and Family Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  The mission of DHHS and these departments is to uphold "child welfare principles" and the rights of refugees.  Instead, they have been complicit in the state-sponsored neglect and abuse of thousands of children crossing the border, many of whom are seeking asylum.  It's time to speak out.

We the undersigned are professionals contracted to provide services to children and families by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or are directly employed by the agency. 

HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) states on its website that the division is committed to “incorporating child welfare values as well as the principles and provisions established by the Flores Agreement in 1997.”[1]   While some of the worst abuses have occurred in facilities operated or contracted by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we are deeply concerned that HHS has been silent and complicit in its collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, despite evidence that transfers to ORR care are severely delayed and children must remain in dangerous and harmful conditions.

Some areas of concern include:

1.     HHS and ORR’s failure to speak out about the negative impacts of the “zero tolerance” policy on children since 2018.  Some of the most egregious outcomes included deporting parents without their children or permanently separating children based on a parent or caregiver’s misdemeanor criminal record that posed no clear threat to the child’s welfare[2]. 

2.     Widespread allegations of sexual abuse against child immigrant detainees in facilities contracted by ORR.[3]

3.     The threat of detention and deportation for non-citizen family members attempting to sponsor immigrant children in detention.  This aggravates the lack of alternatives to detention and keeps children severed from family.[4]

4.     Neglectful and abusive practices such as leaving young children in a van for 23 hours, and in one child’s case 39 hours, while they waited to be reunited with family members.[5]

5.     Threats to remove children’s educational and recreational programs at ORR facilities due to budgetary constraints rather than advocating for humane and effective policies, including changes to policy that would reduce the use of detention.[6]

6.     Inhumane, unsafe and prolonged detention for children at CBP facilities rather that prompt referral to ORR as documented in Clint, Texas and other facilities.[7]

We urge civil servants at all levels of HHS as well as independent contractors to speak out. 

As child welfare professionals we have a particular duty to insist upon the importance of attachment relationships as well as safe and humane conditions, regardless of a child’s immigration status. 

We expect DHHS and ORR to take principled stands and object when political administrations implement policies and practices that violate children and families' human rights.   This includes demanding the Department of Homeland Security uphold the Flores Agreement and honor the rights of all children and families, many of whom are seeking asylum.

 

[1] https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/programs/ucs

 
[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/24/us-immigration-463-migrant-parents-deported-without-children.html

 
[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/us/immigrant-children-sexual-abuse.html

 
3 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/ice-arrested-170-immigrants-seeking-sponsor-migrant-children-n946621

 
[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/botched-family-reunifications-left-migrant-children-waiting-vans-overnight-n1013336

 
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/us/migrant-children-services.html

 
[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/podcasts/the-daily/migrant-children-border-detention-clint-texas.html

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At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!