Agency warned sep­a­ra­tion bad for kids

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON» A De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices of­fi­cial told sen­a­tors Tues­day that his agency warned the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies would be dan­ger­ous for chil­dren. But some of the gov­ern­ment’s top im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials used a Se­nate hear­ing to largely de­fend how the pol­icy has been im­ple­mented, with one com­par­ing fam­ily de­ten­tion cen­ters to “a sum­mer camp.”

One of­fi­cial told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that while the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was de­vel­op­ing its im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices of­fi­cials said they were wor­ried “about any pol­icy which would re­sult in fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion due to con­cerns we had about the best in­ter­ests of the child.” Cmdr. Jonathan D. White of the U.S. Pub­lic Health Ser­vice Com­mis­sioned Corps, a branch of HHS, said they were also un­cer­tain their de­part­ment had enough re­sources to han­dle large num­bers of de­tained im­mi­grants.

“There’s no ques­tion that sep­a­ra­tion of chil­dren from par­ents en­tails sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for trau­matic psy­cho­log­i­cal in­jury to the child,” White said.

Asked by Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn., what re­sponse HHS of­fi­cials got from ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­i­cy­mak­ers, White said, “The an­swer was there was no pol­icy which would re­sult in sep­a­ra­tion of chil­dren from fam­ily units.” White is a ca­reer of­fi­cial at HHS who has served in three ad­min­is­tra­tions.

White’s re­marks came as the Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee ques­tioned of­fi­cials about what has be­come an elec­tion-year li­a­bil­ity for the Repub­li­cans and the White House — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sep­a­ra­tion of mi­grant chil­dren from de­tained fam­i­lies. Trump dropped the pol­icy more than a month ago un­der fire from Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike. But of more than 2,500 chil­dren who were ini­tially sep­a­rated from par­ents and guardians, hun­dreds re­main in fed­eral cus­tody — in­clud­ing more than 400 whose par­ents left the U.S. with­out them.

Law­mak­ers and jour­nal­ists who have vis­ited some de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try and mi­grants them­selves have re­ported poor con­di­tions. The top mem­bers of the Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee — chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Fe­in­stein, D-Calif. — have asked in­spec­tors gen­eral of two fed­eral agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate re­ports by news or­ga­ni­za­tions that im­mi­grants at some cen­ters have suf­fered al­leged sex­ual and other forms of abuse.

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