Congressional Democrats are continuing to deal with unruly and dangerous behavior from the Trump administration via their newfound investigative authority as the House majority. This week, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fl.) demanded answers from administration officials for their placement of separated, undocumented immigrant children in environments with long-documented histories of sexual abuse. So many allegations against the individuals responsible for overseeing unaccompanied migrant children have emerged that there’s an average of one sexual abuse story a week for at least the last few years.
Deutch did not get many answers for his concern this week from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Commander Jonathan White, who oversees the department’s handling of “unaccompanied alien children.”
The Congressman began:
‘The Trump administration’s forced child separation policy will forever be a dark time in our country’s history. The policy undermines our country’s moral standing in the world that generations of Americans have worked so hard and in some cases have given their lives to build. I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.’
After he continued, demanding to know what consideration, if any, White and the others on the witness panel had given to the sexual abuse allegations that emerged behind-the-scenes in recent years, White offered a dismal at best response, asserting that Deutch’s assertions were “false” because the accused abusers were contractors, not long-term staffers.
‘I will make that clarification! It doesn’t make what happened any less horrific — any less horrific!’
The point was never the exact employment status of the individuals who committed the abuse. The point was that it went on while undocumented migrant children were in the Department of Health and Human Services’ custody. The point wasn’t whether Deutch used the most appropriate technical language — even if more precise to call the individuals contractors, it’s not incorrect as White asserted say they were employed by the government.
Deutch insisted that White and the others he was testifying alongside present the information about sexual abuse against minors in government care to higher-up officials in the Trump administration in order to potentially inform future policy decisions. Ironically, White claims to have been opposed to the infamous family separation policy behind the scenes before it was implemented.
Although that punitive, zero-tolerance policy that saw thousands of children separated from their families has since been suspended, White’s program still takes children into custody who either arrive unaccompanied at the border or are separated for tangible reasons.
Besides the specific 154 allegations that HHS shared were “staff-on-minor” — again refuting White’s nitpicking — there were thousands of allegations in total collected by Deutch’s office after a document request from the agency.
The Trump administration’s latest anti-immigrant pushes have included — besides the infamous, desperate drive for a border wall blocking off Mexico — trying to make asylum seekers wait outside of the country for their claims to be processed. Multiple previous Trump administration efforts to thwart the asylum-seeking process have ended up blocked in federal court, just like the family separation.
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