Lowey Presses Nielsen, Azar to Respond to Unanswered Questions on Family Separation
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, today urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to respond to unanswered questions regarding the Administration’s family separation policy.
Following President Trump’s new Executive Order on June 20, 2018 – which keeps families together at the U.S.-Mexico border but opens the door to long-term child detention – the Administration did not detail a plan for reuniting family members and the more than 2,300 separated children, some of whom have reportedly been flown roughly 2,000 miles from their families to shelters in Westchester, New York.
In a letter to Azar and Nielsen, Lowey pressed for answers about the numbers, ages, and genders of children detained in Westchester and New York State; whether these children have access to physical and mental health services; the details and timeline of the Administration’s reunification plan; the status of the facilities where children are being held; and whether children have been in contact with family members.
The text of the letter can be found here and below:
June 21, 2018
Dear Secretary Azar and Secretary Nielsen:
The Trump Administration’s decision to tear children away from their family members at the U.S.-Mexico border is a cruel and shameful policy that will stain the fabric of our nation for generations. Even after the President signed his Executive Order on June 20, 2018, opening the door to long-term child detention, the Administration has yet to detail a plan on how to reunite children with a family member.
I have been gravely concerned by reports that some of the separated children have been flown roughly 2,000 miles from their families to shelters in Westchester, New York, including but not limited to The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, Abbot House in Irvington, Rising Ground in Yonkers, and Lincoln Hall Boy’s Haven in Lincolndale, a hamlet in Somers.
I am requesting an immediate and formal response to the questions below.
- Since the Administration’s so-called “Zero-Tolerance” policy began in April, how many children separated from a family member are being held in shelters, detention facilities, or in foster care in New York?
- How many of these children have been detained in Westchester County and in which facilities do they reside?
- What are the ages of the children?
- What are the genders of the children?
- Are these facilities required to provide physical and mental health services to the children, and are they currently meeting this requirement?
- What is the Administration’s plan to reunite children with a family member?
- What is the timeline of the Administration’s plan to reunite children with a family member?
- Are family members of detained children in New York aware of the location of the children?
- Has contact information for the children been provided to a family member?
- If so, have detained family members been permitted to use a phone in order to speak with their separated children, and have other family members in the United States or abroad had an opportunity to speak with the children?
- Are the facilities listed above near, at, or above capacity?
The Administration’s cruel actions have already caused lasting trauma from which many children may never fully recover. It is imperative that these misdeeds are rectified without delay so children and their family members can begin to heal from these unconscionable policies.
I await your response,
Nita M. Lowey
Member of Congress