January 31, 2019 Press Release

Energy & Commerce Committee Announces Hearing on Child Separation: Will Azar Show His Face?
Azar refused to testify when asked earlier this month, research from Equity Forward highlights failed leadership at HHS

01.31.19 – Today, amid breaking news that the Oversight Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Trump administration’s inhumane Family Separation Policy that ripped at least 2,500 children from their families, Equity Forward is highlighting its extensive research on the political appointees responsible for the chaos, cruelty and incompetence that defined the crisis. The new hearings will test HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who earlier in the month refused to testify on the disastrous policy.

The research is featured on HHS Watch, a comprehensive library of  research on the extreme and unqualified Trump administration political appointees leading our nation’s health department:

  • Alex Azar, Secretary of HHS, who boasted in front of a Senate committee that he could find every child in custody “within seconds.” The Washington Post later confirmed that HHS lied to the public when it claimed it had a “central database” with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to share information about children ripped from their parents during the family separation crisis;

  • Scott Lloyd, former Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director, who was taken to task in a scathing report that found his office woefully unprepared to handle the more than 2,500 children ripped from their families at the border and who deliberately fudged the number of children in his care, leaving children stranded unnecessarily in HHS custody for months;

  • Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, who was intimately involved in crisis and praised Scott Lloyd even after he was removed from day-to-day management of his office after his attempts to prevent young women in ORR custody from accessing reproductive care;

  • Steven Wagner, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, who was also involved in requiring a pregnant minor in HHS care at the border to see a “highly deceptive” anti-abortion pamphlet that listed “death,” “breast cancer risk” and “future infertility” as risks of abortion;

  • Maggie Wynne, Counselor for Human Services Policy, who was also a key decision maker in the Trump administration’s policy to deny unaccompanied minors in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) access to reproductive care;

  • Jonathan Hayes, Interim Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director, who was appointed despite having no direct experience working with refugees or in the health care field;

  • Matthew Bassett, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, who was involved with the child separation crisis and wrote a letter to Congress blaming ORR’s failure to quickly reunify migrant families on public officials’ visits to detention centers;

  • Judy Stecker, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, who dodged and refused to answer a reporter’s questions last summer regarding HHS’ role in the child separation crisis; and

  • Jen Moughalian, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources, who sent a letter to Congress notifying it of HHS’ plan to transfer up to $180 million to the child separation program despite earlier claims that the zero tolerance policy was not driving up funding transfers.

“This research highlights Azar’s failed leadership of the agency responsible for ripping children from their families, hundreds of whom have yet to be reunified with their parents,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward.

“As oversight begins in earnest next Thursday, we are confident HHS Watch will be a critical resource for congressional investigators as they probe how Azar and his top lieutenants cruelly separated families.”

The website’s interactive interface allows appointees to be sorted and viewed by their internal HHS offices, providing a uniquely comprehensive look at the agency. The site also delves into the views and influences of lesser known appointees who have incredible power in undermining access to care for people in America.

About Equity Forward

Equity Forward is a watchdog project that seeks to ensure transparency and accountability among anti-reproductive health groups and individuals. In addition to running HHSWatch.org, an extensive website with a library of research on nearly 50 political appointees at our nation's health department who are hostile to reproductive health care, Equity Forward also runs PutPeopleBeforePolitics.org, which calls on Secretary Azar not to cut nearly $100 million in lifesaving research at the behest of the anti-abortion lobby.