September 13, 2018 Press Release

Equity Forward Responds:  New Report of 13,000 Migrant Children Detained by HHS  

09.13.18 – As reported by The New York Times, for months, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has failed to disclose the size and scope of a program designed to detain nearly 13,000 migrant children. Today, there are more questions than answers about Azar’s management of HHS, this program, and what else he has failed to disclose to Congress and the American people.

While we don’t have the answers, we know Azar does. He testified to Congress that he had information on all the children in HHS’ care at his fingertips: “with just basic keystrokes within seconds [I] could find any child in our care for any parent.”

Said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward:

“Secretary Azar continues to provide reassurances that things are going smoothly at HHS and their detention of migrant children, and yet weeks later, we hear tragic numbers and shocking reports of abuse.

“Enough with the drips and leaks of information. It’s time Secretary Azar appear for a full hearing about this program. Anything less is unconscionable. Why isn’t every member of Congress with the power to do so calling him in front of their committee?  We are talking about children.”

We also know Alex Azar has made decisions that have made things worse for the children in HHS’ care:

  • Azar has stood by Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd who has no relevant experience managing large-scale refugee programs, and who has been repeatedly rebuked by the courts for his conduct;

  • HHS implemented a new policy designed to keep kids in ORR custody until their 18th birthdays, when they can be transferred to ICE and then deported. That decision alone could lead to thousands of kids being detained for the rest of their childhoods; and

  • HHS adopted a new policy that keeps young women in HHS custody from accessing needed reproductive healthcare like abortion services.

It’s time for Congress to do its job and hold Azar and the Trump administration accountable for its dangerous policies.