CHN: House Panels Hold Hearings on Family Separation Policy

Several House panels recently held hearings on families separated at the southern U.S. border. On Feb. 7, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled, “Examining the Failures of the Trump Administration’s Inhumane Family Separation Policy.” Witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Kids in Need of Defense, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s family separation policy on Feb. 26. While similar in some ways to the Feb. 7 hearing, this hearing focused less on mental health and more on learning more about the implementation of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Witnesses included representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protections, and the Department of Justice. Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps at the Department of Health and Human Services testified at both hearings. On Feb. 27, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education held a hearing on “Reviewing the Administration’s Unaccompanied Children Program.” Witnesses included representatives from the Center for Immigration Studies, Kids in Need of Defense, and the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program.

At the Feb. 26th hearing, the committee voted (25-11) to issue subpoenas to Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. According to CQ, the committee agreed to subpoena documents from all three agencies that would identify the children and parents of any families separated under the policy, the locations and facilities where they were held, and whether reunification has since occurred, among other information. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said the subpoenas were issued because the committee never received information in requested last July.

The hearings were partially in response to a government watchdog report released on Jan. 17, which found that the Trump Administration likely separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, but federal efforts to track those children have been so poor that the precise number is unknown. The revelations by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services drew concern and outrage from immigrant advocates, and members of the U.S. House promised to step up oversight efforts.

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