Don Beyer leads Democrats seeking answers on allegations of abuse of migrant children in custody

Don BeyerRep. Don Beyer today led 77 Democrats in a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Alex Azar and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd.

They sought answers regarding allegations of mistreatment toward migrant children currently in the custody of ORR, and expressed concerns about ORR’s process of releasing children, which is exacerbating family separation. The letter asked HHS and ORR to address the allegations, and allow Members to meet the children and visit the facilities where they are being held. The lawmakers also requested ORR make clear what steps are being taken to reunite children with their parents who were forcibly separated at the border.

They wrote:

“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is allegedly mistreating children in custody. We understand that these are allegations, and we want to give you the opportunity to refute and explain what is happening to children in your care. We also are willing to visit shelters, meet with staff and meet children in these facilities.

“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ‘highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.’”

“There are also documented cases of abuse and mismanagement at ORR-affiliated facilities. According to the Associated Press, migrant children held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Virginia are suffering from severe mistreatment and abuse at the hands of guards. These children are reportedly routinely beaten while shackled at the hands and legs, subject to long periods of solitary confinement, and ‘stripped…of their clothes and strapped…to chairs with bags placed over their heads.’  Such allegations of abusive treatment are particularly disturbing since, according to the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, many of these children—as young as 14 years of age—suffer from severe mental health issues related to the trauma faced in their home countries.

“We would also like to understand the steps ORR is taking to reunite children with parents who were forcibly separated at the Southern border. We are concerned that ORR is failing to effectively coordinate with DHS to ensure communication and reunification for separated children and their parents.  Many parents do not know where their children are detained, or how they will reconnect and reunite with them.  Advocates and lawyers also report that an April DHS-HHS Memorandum of Agreement mandating continuous information sharing has both exacerbated family separation and undermined protections for children.”

augusta free press news