Durbin Criticizes Trump Administration After Watchdog Finds Vulnerabilities At Facility Charged With Caring For Children In Health Department's Custody

New report shows failures of grantee entrusted to care for children in the custody of the Health Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) responded to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) that identified significant vulnerabilities at a facility in Tornillo, Texas, tasked with caring for children as part of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program.  The report found that HHS waived the requirement that the facility conduct required Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks for staff and that the facility had failed to hire enough mental health providers to ensure traumatized children in its care received adequate mental health services.  The report comes after Durbin, and several of his colleagues, sent a letter to the HHS OIG earlier this year requesting they conduct a comprehensive review of the operations of the UAC program, including the treatment of children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border by the Trump Administration’s policy.

The Trump administration’s child separation policy resulted in the Department of Homeland Security forcibly separating nearly 3,000 children from their parents. I met some of these separated children. They were toddlers and infants, little babies taken from their mothers. And now we are learning, as part of the HHS OIG investigation that I requested with Senators Murray and Feinstein, that a facility in Tornillo, Texas, that was holding these kids failed to conduct the required FBI background checks for staff and was not employing enough clinicians to provide mental health care for the children—children who have been victims of trauma. The cruelty of this ill-conceived, heartless, and poorly implemented policy seems to be never-ending. The Republicans who control Congress have failed to conduct the most basic oversight to prevent these abuses and hold this Administration accountable.