April 9, 2019 Press Release

Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns While Health Department Counterparts Dig In & Continue to Wreak Havoc

04.09.19 – While Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on Sunday, the Health and Human Services (HHS) officials who helped carry out President Trump’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy remain in power. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Former Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director and current HHS employee Scott Lloyd, HHS Counselor Maggie Wynne and Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner each played a role in the development and botched execution of the policy that ripped hundreds of children away from their parents.

“For months, HHS officials have failed to take responsibility or face consequences for their actions and their policy decisions continue to hurt those in their custody,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward. “The fact is that Azar’s conduct and mismanagement has rivaled Nielsen’s. Leading the department, Azar has weaponized HHS to facilitate harmful policies. He directly aided and abetted the separation of families at the border and failed to acknowledge the harm done to children. It’s time he is held accountable.”

Lloyd, Wynne and Wagner each had the opportunity to raise concerns about the family separation policy when Jonathan White first warned them about it. However, they all falsely denied that such a policy existed despite their close coordination with the administration on its plans.

In fact, records show that Lloyd and Wynne were both involved in the coordination of the family separation policy implications from its early inception. The two shared information about the immigration procedures for unaccompanied minors with the White House, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and coordinated the policy implications for ORR.

Despite these meetings, Secretary Azar did nothing to plan for this disastrous policy, and HHS officials reportedly encouraged ORR officials not to plan ahead. Additionally, when Lloyd was found focusing more on tracking the pregnancies of young women in ORR care over separated children, Azar stood by him by simply reassigning him to another high-level position.

Equity Forward has joined a coalition of organizations calling on America’s corporate leaders to make it clear that they will not hire for employment, contract for consulting or seat on their boards anyone involved in the development or implementation of the Trump administration’s horrific family separation immigration policy.  More information can be found at TrumpAdministrationSeparation.org.

More information on HHS officials can be found at HHSWatch.org, an extensive website with a library of research on nearly 50 political appointees at our nation's health department.