HHS Secy Attended College Reunion Amid Family Separation Crisis
An official with Health and Human Services says the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border as a result of a zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings won’t be immediately reunited with their families.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the department’s Administration for Children and Families, says their cases will proceed through the system.
The children who are separated from their families are turned over to HHS within 72 hours and are then categorized as unaccompanied minors who are eventually placed with sponsors. Officials have said they were working to reunite families as soon as possible but provided no clear answers on how that was going to happen.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that stopped the separations.
A senior Justice Department official says President Donald Trump’s executive order is a stopgap measure to end the separation of families as they cross the border illegally and face criminal prosecution.
Gene Hamilton, the Counselor to the Attorney General, says Homeland Security officials can only detain families for up to 20 days. He says that hasn’t changed, but lawyers will file a challenge to a settlement that governs how children caught at the border are treated. He says they will ask the judge to allow for detention of families indefinitely.
Trump signed an order Wednesday that prioritized cases of families who cross the border illegally, and directed Homeland Security officials to detain them together.
A spokesman says the Health and Human Services Department is paying up to $775 a day per child to house some migrant children.
Ken Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, said that’s the average estimated cost for children in temporary shelters. The cost isn’t related to whether the children were separated from parents, but to the type of federal facility they’re in.
Wolfe says permanent shelters cost less, $256 a day per child.
Temporary shelters cost more because they must be set up in short order.
HHS is caring for about 11,800 migrant children, of which about 8 in 10 arrived without a parent.
Kids are in HHS custody typically about 60 days before being placed with a sponsor, usually a parent or relative.
New York City’s mayor has toured a children’s center in Harlem that he says is caring for 239 migrant children separated from their parents by federal immigration officials.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the tour Wednesday that one of the children at the center is a 9-year-old boy from Honduras who had been sent 2,000 miles to the facility on a bus after being stopped trying to enter the U.S. with his family.
The Democrat says he didn’t know until that morning that such large numbers of children taken from their parents were being brought to New York.
The Cayuga Center has classrooms in a six-story building across the street from an elevated train line.
It has a federal contract to place unaccompanied immigrant children in short-term foster care.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his agency will start reuniting detained immigrant children with their parents — but he’s making no specific commitment on how quickly that can be accomplished.
“We need to get the children out of our care as expeditiously as possible,” Azar said Wednesday on the Washington Post’s Health 202 webcast.
HHS says it is caring for about 11,800 migrant children, but the majority arrived at the U.S. border without parents or another adult. It says about 2,300 were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
Azar says his agency is in touch with the parents, but some parents whose children were taken away say they have had trouble reaching their kids through a special phone number provided by the government.
A liberal advocacy group says President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border doesn’t go far enough.
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center says the administration still plans to treat families like criminals by holding them in detention facilities.
A statement from the president of the organization, Richard Cohen, says there are other alternatives available. And it says indiscriminate enforcement is “shattering” communities across the country.
Trump signed an order that doesn’t end the “zero-tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes any adult caught crossing the border illegally. But it does make changes that include keeping families together while they are in custody.
The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors extremism and is often critical of Trump policies.