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Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

Representing the 12th District of Michigan

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Dingell, Kuster Lead Democratic Women in Pressing Trump Administration to Explain “Where are the Girls?”

June 20, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congresswomen Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Annie Kuster (NH-2) announced they are leading a group of nearly 60 Democratic women in pressing the Secretaries of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to release details about immigrant children separated from their parents. You can read the letter here.

“It’s repugnant to think of children separated from their families,” said Dingell. “What’s worse is we don’t know where girls are being housed, the conditions under which they are residing after being torn from their parents arms, and we don’t know how they are being protected, supported, or plans for reunification. These are children and it’s our job to protect them. Rep. Annie Kuster and I are proud to work with our other Democratic colleagues in the House to demand specifics to ensure these girls safety and care.”

“The situation on the southern border is absolutely heartbreaking,” said Kuster. “No child should be separated from their parents. I’m deeply troubled that the administration appears to be only allowing access to detention facilities housing boys. We need to know what is taking place with young girls, as well as toddlers and infants who are being detained. This is a devastating crisis and the American government cannot be in the business of locking up children including toddlers and babies.”

“The Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border is deeply concerning and it goes against our nation’s values and long history as a land of immigrants,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we learn more about the devastating effects of President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, we are seeing more and more images of some of the children that are being detained.  Based on these images, many have raised concerns about the status of young girls who have been separated at the border.  The American people have a right to know what is being done to ensure that these young girls are safe and being properly cared for.”

In photos of the detention centers released by DHS, only photos of young boys have been released. Prompting questions from the public and members of Congress as to the whereabouts of the young girls separated from their parents.

The lawmakers continued, “Disturbingly, the photos and videos released as of the date of this letter only show boys, and only boys age 10 and up. We are asking for a formal answer to these and other questions regarding the status of children being detained by DHS and HHS.”

In the letter, the Democratic women asked DHS and HHS to give specifics as to how many children have been separated, how many facilities are housing them, how their safety and care are being ensured, and what the plans are for family reunification. The letter was signed by Congresswomen Alma Adams (NC-12), Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Judy Chu (CA-27), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Yvette Clarke (NY-9), Susan Davis (CA-53), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), Val Demings (FL-10), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Shelia Jackson Lee (TX-18), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Robin Kelly (IL-2), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Nita M. Lowey (NY-17), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Betty McCollum (MN-4), Grace Meng (NY-6), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Jacky Rosen (NV-3), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Teri Sewell (AL-7), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Dina Titus (NV-1), Norma Torres (CA-35), Niki Tsongas (MA-3), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24).

 

The full letter can be read below:

Dear Secretary Azar and Secretary Nielsen:

The Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border is deeply concerning and it goes against our nation’s values and long history as a land of immigrants.  As we learn more about the devastating effects of President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, we are seeing more and more images of some of the children that are being detained.  Based on these images, many have raised concerns about the status of young girls who have been separated at the border.  The American people have a right to know what is being done to ensure that these young girls are safe and being properly cared for.

On June 18, 2018, Secretary Nielsen was unable to speak to the whereabouts and living conditions for the many girls, toddlers, and infants who have been separated from their families at the border.  According to data released by the Department of Homeland Security, almost 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and placed under supervision of HHS in accordance with the Trump Administration’s current immigration policy.

Disturbingly, the photos and videos released as of the date of this letter only show boys, and only boys age 10 and up. We are asking for a formal answer to these and other questions regarding the status of children being detained by DHS and HHS.

  • How many total girls are under the supervision of DHS and HHS? How many facilities are there?  What is the budget for each facility?
  • How has HHS ensured that the facilities housing girls are safe, clean, and age appropriate? When will HHS allow access or provide visual evidence of the status of these girls and the facility conditions?
  • What precautions are being taken to keep young girls protected from exploitation?
  • Who is taking care of infant and toddlers who have been separated from their mothers and can no longer be breastfed?
  • How are DHS and HHS ensuring that the companies and nonprofits that operate facilities through government contracts and grants are conducting thorough background checks on potential illegal behavior among their employees who work with young girls and boys?
  • How are DHS and HHS ensuring that the specific needs of young girls are being met?
  • How many pregnant young women are in ORR’s custody?  What is ORR doing to ensure they are receiving adequate prenatal and medical care?
  • How many young women in ORR’s custody have recently given birth?  What is ORR doing to ensure they are receiving adequate medical care?
  • Please provide more information on the reported practice of forcibly injecting children with powerful psychiatric drugs, including what children are being injected with, the rationale for this practice, the number of children subjected to this.
  • What plans does DHS and HHS have to reunify children who have been separated from their parents at the border?

The Administration has claimed that limiting media access to the detention centers is out of privacy protection for the detained children. We recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of these children.  However, this crisis has raised great concern among Members of Congress and the American people.  We look forward to your timely response to our questions.   

 

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This press release has been updated.

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