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House Judiciary Cmte holds 10am hearing on the Trump administration's #FamilySeparation policy. Officials from Border Patrol, ICE, DOJ's immigration courts, & HHS - including Scott Lloyd, who used to oversee the care/custody of migrant kids, will testify. Follow here for updates
From 2017-2018 Lloyd ran the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in HHS. ORR is responsible for the care of unaccompanied children in US custody. His tenure @ ORR overlapped with the Trump administration's Zero Tolerance/Family Separation policy.
Before working for ORR, Lloyd worked for an anti-abortion organization. During his time at ORR, he blocked multiple abortion requests from young women in his custody, including one minor who was raped. A federal judge overruled him.…
In November 2018, Lloyd left ORR to become Senior Adviser at another HHS office - Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives - working with faith-based groups on HHS agenda. Lloyd is sure to face some tough questions about what he knew/didn't know about #FamilySeparation today.
Also testifying: Cmdr Jonathan White, w/ the US Public Health Service Corps @ HHS. His previous testimony has been pretty damning of the administration's disregard for the well being of children in their care.
White has previously testified that he didn't know the administration was going to separate children, and would've advised against it, had he been told. The effects of separation, he said, are traumatic, and children who are forcibly separated suffer "lifelong" consequences.
White was also previously involved in the surges of unaccompanied minors in 2014 and 2016, and was brought back by the govt to oversee their emergency reunification effort after a federal judge ordered them to reunite separated families last year.
We should also expect a lot of questions about WHY the #familyseparation policy was so crudely, inconsistently, and messily implemented - making reunification near impossible in many cases. This part of Lloyd's testimony offers insight (read: it was DHS' fault).
This boggles my mind every time we report it: there was NO STANDARD for reporting a child had been separated when DHS turned them over to HHS. Lloyd will testify that a database "checkbox" (was child separated or not?) was added *months after* #familyseparation was put into place
10:07a Chairman Jerrold Nadler gavels in. Opening statement. "It's unbelievable so much harm has occurred to so many people with so little oversight...even now, months after implementation...basic questions remain unanswered."
Nadler: we only received our first documents from DOJ and DHS *last night* - unacceptable. (notes HHS has been complying with document requests)
Nadler lays out 4 key questions for today's hearing
Why did admin think seizing kids from parents was acceptable?
Who was responsible for developing policy?
What are you doing to reunify all separated families?
What plans in place to repair trauma to children as result of policy?
Nadler: administration was either incompetent or grossly negligent in implementation of policy...agencies failed to take basic steps to prepare for #familyseparation.
Nadler: the chaotic way #familyseparation was implemented shows "utter indifference to human suffering that shocks the conscience."
Nadler notes HHS IG founds "thousands" more children could have been separated. And that the actual number is *still unknown*. #familyseparation
Ranking Member Collins: actions can have damaging consequences...fraud and abuse now rampant...notes dangerous journey migrants take...says "perverse incentive" for migrants to come and falsely claim asylum "remains strong"
Collins: family unit apprehensions up 280% from last year...calls today's hearing "a political spectacle"...we must be fair, when we look back at this hindsight, it is clear system was not set up to handle this...that was a mistake in the system...
Collins: we should also talk about how Congress can stop incentivizing illegal entry...we help no one by upholding status quo...what got us here, how do we get it fixed...then we do a service to the american public.
Collins: introduces guests in the hearing room, Angel Families who lost loved ones to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
Lofgren: #FamilySeparation policy has stained the nation...notes when Dems publicly decried plan to separate families early 2017, then-DHS-head Kelly walked it back. We later learned pilot program had been launched on El Paso region already.
Lofgren: It's a terrible irony that families took perilous journey to protect kids, only to see those kids taken from them...we continue to receive reports families are being separated at the border.
Lofgren: every admin deals with illegal entries...we know Obama admin even briefly studied family separation and decided against it...why did this administration fervently pursue it?
Rep. Lofgren: "We don't even know how many families were separated. Because apparently nobody kept count."
Rep Buck: no one on this cmte wants to see families separated...there is a crisis on our southern border, created by Congress' unwillingness to act and perpetrated by Democrats' open borders policy...
Buck cites increase in illicit drugs crossing southern border.
A good time to remind everyone CBP's own numbers show vast majority of illicit drugs cross border at legal ports of entry, smuggled in trailers and passenger vehicles.
Buck: also seeing unprecedented #'s of family units at southern border (this is true). Oct: 23,000. Dec: 27,000...Buck blames "loopholes" in immigration laws for this uptick.
Nadler introduces witnesses, but before allowing them to speak: "there are no good intentions about dragging children away from their parents...purpose of this hearing is to figure out why it happened and how we're going to set it right."
CBP Chief Carla Provost: family units make up 60% of SW border trend: large groups (100-300 people) arriving...gaps in treatment of minors serve as "significant pull factor" for these groups...more migrants are emboldened to make this dangerous journey.
Provost: calls on Congress to address TVPRA and Flores (laws guiding treatment/care of minors in government custody)... our temp holding facilities simply not set up to care for population this size and demographic...situation is unsustainable...
Provost: every day nearly 25% of agents diverted away to care for, process family units...when agents are occupied, gang members/drug smugglers take advantage...ongoing debate if security or humanitarian crisis, "let me clear. it is both."
CBP head Provost: today nearly 80% of those apprehended not from Mexico...majority from Central America, family units...what numbers don't show is how my officers care for those who enter..."we do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty." #familyseparation
ICE official Nathalie Asher testifying now to how agencies worked to reunite separated families after ordered by federal units place "unparalled strain" on already over-burdened system...calls for change to "outdated laws"
Former ORR head Scott Lloyd: makes clear his agency not responsible for separations...only receives children into care once they've been separated (or arrived alone)...points out vast majority of kids in custody did arrive alone.
Lloyd: Prior to Summer 2018, no way to aggregate info on separated children...had to go into each file and retrieve information case by case (*this was part of why process to reunite families under federal judge's order was so complicated)
Lloyd: ORR has now reunified "nearly all" of the separated children who fell under parameters of federal judge's orders.
Cmdr White: Pres issued Exec Order on June 20, 2018. June 22: HHS Sec directed us to comply. We formed incident management team. June 26th: judge's parameters came down. Federal judge's order meant reuniting separated children (as of June 26th) with families (dates are important)
White: The count of 2,816 does NOT include children discharged before June 26th, or referred to ORR care after that date.
Here's the breakdown of separated kids reunited under federal judge's order:
Of 2,816 total:
-2155 reunited with parent from whom they were separated
-580 placed with family sponsor (not parent)
-18 still in ORR care, can't be reunited bc of parent's criminal history or credible allegation of abuse (unsafe for child)
-39 still in ORR care bc parents were deported and waived reunification, kids on pathway to placement with sponsor in US
-14 still in ORR care who they later determined hadn't been separated
-5 still in care whose parents waived reunification (here in US I believe?)
-5 who might still be reunited. *these 5 are the only outstanding cases*
--per Cmdr White.
Nadler: how did CBP not make sure adequate system to track families *before* separation.
Provost: we did not have searchable field focused specifically on separation. every separation we have done during that time and since has had alien registration tied with parent to child.
*This isn't consistent with what I saw when given a look at the database last year. Parents' A #'s (alien numbers) weren't always entered in the notes section of kids' files. If info wasn't input by referring officer, there was nothing to indicate child had been separated.
Nadler pressing CBP head on what steps they took to ensure reunification when families were apprehended.
Provost: "Reunification is not something that Border Patrol handles. We handle the apprehension and the transfer."
Provost says they provided separation info to HHS "whenever" we did a separation. Again - that's not what I saw in the HHS database last year. I was told *often* border patrol officers did NOT enter separation info, or put inadequate info, meaning no link btwn kid and parent.
CBP head Provost: Flores rule creates "pull factor" (children cannot be detained longer than 20 days). TVPRA means children from non-contiguous countries treated differently than those from contiguous. Both need to be addressed.
CBP head Provost speaks to increase in family units crossing southern border:
June 2018: 9k families
Feb 2019: already over 30k
at #familyseparation hearing happening now.
Collins: we need to find a better way to do this, for people who want to come here legally...this needs to be a hearing not only about what happened, but what we can do moving forward.
Lofgren referencing White's previous testimony, that he raised concerns about traumatic effect of separation on children, asking when he raised them to leadership (which would include Lloyd, seated down the table from White)
White: Raised issues on a # of occasions, Late summer issues resurfaced - we saw increased separations occurring, tho it was our understanding no policy was in place. Raised concerns with ORR head (Lloyd) and others then. And into January 2018.
White confirms he raised concerns primarily in meetings, but also in writing.
Lofgren asks for documents related to that.
White says he's "confident" HHS will provide those documents.
Sensenbrenner: asking about rapid DNA technology playing a role in proving familial relationships at the border, or during reunification efforts.
Cmdr White: in context of federal judge's order, we weren't permitted to use DNA testing...but for other cases...
White: we tend to use birth certificates for both sponsor and child, verified by home government (consular authorities).
When documents are unavailable, we use DNA testing as 2nd line method.
White: document method is sufficiently timely - we believe it is best, cheapest for American taxpayer, better indicator of actual family relationship (esp for aunts/grands/etc who often come forward as sponsors)
Here I need to remind you of the case of 3-year-old Sofi, who crossed legally with her grandmother, after the President had ended #familyseparation, and was STILL separated, despite having original birth certificates. We followed her story @NewsHour…
Rep. Jackson Lee: I'll always remember the story of Roger. I held in my arms. 9 months old. snatched form natural guardians. no ability to talk. no band. no ID. nothing. one wonders where Roger is today.
Jackson Lee pressing former ORR head Lloyd on what he knew, when.
Cites past report that he instructed staff to stop updating spreadsheet tracking separations.
Lloyd: that was incorrect reporting. i did not make that order.
That Oct 2018 report here:…
"For instance, three individuals with knowledge of the operation said Lloyd made decisions that complicated reunifications. For instance, Lloyd directed his staff to stop keeping a spreadsheet tracking separated families."
DOJ's McHenry: we have approx 430 immigration judges, been able to complete more cases at any time since 2011. since 2016-17, backlog increased for other factors, that extend beyond us.
McHenry: increased numbers of people coming, leading to more cases coming to us. In last few years, that caused backlog to go up.
*(also worth noting in May 2018, AG Sessions "re-opened" 350,000 cases that had previously been closed)…)
ICE's Asher: recently there were just over 2,600 cases heard before immigration court. non detained. Just over 2,500 in absentia orders - failed to appear. That's additional challenge for my ICE resources - people with removal orders that need to be found.
Rep Johnson: Did DOJ provide any legal analysis or justification for Zero Tolerance/#familyseparation?
DOJ's McHenry: currently in litigation, can't speak to that.
Johnson: you're short border patrol agents?
Provost: yes
Johnson: to address shortage, signed 5-yr contract $297m contract to recruit and hire new agents
Provost: believe it goes up to that amount
Johnson: only processed 2 accepted job offers
Provost: dont know - thats HR issue.
CBP head Provost: system that CBP (that did the separating) had "did not speak to" HHS system (that housed the separated children)
Rep. Deutsch: asking about sexual assaults against unaccompanied children in the care of US govt. In past year 54 staff-on-accompanied-minor allegations on sexual assault. That works out to 1 per week.
Cmdr White: pushes back that those are HHS staff (says they are not)
Deutsch: stands by statement these were allegations against HHS staff. Notes he saw "thousands" of sexual assault allegations "buried" in documents against non-HHS staff, but people working under HHS.
Rep Gaetz: is child more likely to be sexually abused in transit on journey to border, or under US govt care?
Cmdr White: obvs in transit, but that's not the point...we don't set for ourselves the standard to do better than smugglers and traffickers.
Rep. Biggs using his time during #familyseparation hearing to highlight the stories of families in attendance who lost loved ones due to crimes committed by immigrants who entered the US illegally. "that is permanent separation"
Biggs:our policies don't provide deterrent. they actually provide incentive. which is why you're seeing the increase in people coming across border *(note: actual border crossings at historic lows, demographics have changed such that more families now coming, vs single adult men)
Rep Cicilline: asking about #familyseparation "pilot" program in El Paso
CBP Provost: we had "prosecution initiative" where we worked with DOJ, in that some parents were prosecuted, and separations occurred.
Cicilline: do you have # of kids separated *before* Zero Tolerance made official?
CBP head Provost; we'd have to do manual count.
(in short: govt has #'s since June 26th, when federal judge ordered reunifications, but no idea about separations before then)
Raskin: who's making decisions about welfare of child?
Provost: CBP agents make initial determination,
Raskin: do parents have opp to be heard? can they appeal
Provost: yes / yes, we provide info to HHS.
Raskin: do you have written guidance for agents?
Provost: we can provide.
Cmdr White: we share concern of everyone in this room. anytime child abused in ORR care is one time too many. we refer every allegation for investigation. vast majority prove to be unfounded. important to note, not aware of single instance anywhere of allegation against ORR staff
Rep. McClintock: isn't Zero Tolerance just extension of law enforcement practice long in place?
CBP chief provost: Zero Tolerance in place May 5 - June 20. Family units made up 40% of our apprehensions. Just 10% of prosecutions - individuals that had children with them.
Rep. Jayapal: let me remind everyone it is legal to seek asylum. Trump administration tried to ban asylum seeking, and started practice of metering (limiting legal flow of immigration at ports of entry)
Jayapal to Lloyd: when Cmdr White (who is child welfare expert) expressed concern about family separation's effect, did it concern you?
Lloyd: I accepted what he told me. //He reported what consequences would be and I heard him.
Cmdr White: best available evidence is that separation of children entails very significant and potentially lifelong risk for harm.
Jayapal: after you were warned about impact, did you ever express concern to anyone?
Lloyd: i did not say those words.
Rep Demings: the mess that we have here today, has been self-created and self-inflicted...I had zero tolerance policy as a police chief...for murderers, rapists...not people who were trying to get across the border, trying to make a better life.
Demings asking about two children who died in government custody. (Felipe Gómez Alonzo and Jakelin Caal Maquin) What policies have changed to prevent kids in your custody from suffering/dying?
White: I defer to Provost. Those were in CBP custody, not ORR.
Provost: it was a tragedy. we do everything we can do prevent. we do a 100% screening of all kids who come into our care. (all kids under 18)
Demings: you weren't doing that before?
Provost: that is correct.
Rep Cline: agree there's a mess at border. some would call it a crisis. some, an emergency. we have human trafficking emergency. sex trafficking emergency. want to thank CBP on border patrol working every day to address emergency at border.
ICE official Asher: we do have difficulty recruiting new ICE agents. those with proper law enforcement/military background interested in interior enforcement. that's due in part to negativity. that we're compared to gestapo.
Provost: FY2018 border patrol rescued 4,300 people. Over 1000 people already this year. last week, jumped into river and extracted 12-yr-old boy who wasn't breathing and revived him. these are amazing things they do every day that make me so proud to be here representing them.
Rep. Scanlon: visited El Paso 3 weeks ago, met family separated when there was no criminal conviction, no health issue, no question that mom was unfit. What written guidance to CBP agents have at this point? when to separate?
CBP head Provost: since June 20, 2018 guidance went out to field of when to separate (criminal convictions, health issues, safety of child)
(note: this is AFTER zero tolerance)
Rep Garcia: did you ever object to your superiors, that #familyseparation was harmful? as a human being? (presses each member of panel to answer)
DOJ McHenry: did i? no.
Fmr ORR Lloyd: i did not say anything along those lines.
ICE Asher: i did not voice in that exact term. many of my officers parents too. of course its difficult.
CBP Provost: this is difficult situation. but as law enforcement its our job to enforce law.
Rep Johnson asking about backlog of immigration cases -- how many meet initial "credible fear" standard of seeking asylum, but whose claims end up denied.
DOJ's McHenry: out of every 100 credible fear claims, only about 8-10 end up getting asylum. Definitely an area of concern.
Rep Neguse: references reporting Lloyd directed staff to stop keeping spreadsheet tracking separations. is that true?
Lloyd (reiterates): that's not true.
Rep Stanton: during/prior Zero Tolerance, what guidance on how to physically separate kid from parent?
CBP Provost: agents are trained how to deal with family units. every year, folo law, training TVPRA/Flores (care of detained children)
Stanton cites reports of parents told kids going for baths/food, not brought back. Others physically taken from parent's arms. Written guidance for agents?
CBP Provost: allegations taken v seriously. all investigated.
Stanton: anything to prevent border agents from deceiving parents?
CBP head Provost: my agents are compassionate law enforcement professionals, trained to deal with v difficult situation. if that were to occur, allegations were made, it would be investigated.
Rep Jeffries: can you speak to goal of deterring people, as reason for implementing #familyseparation?
Cmdr White: i cannot speak to the intention. the effect on children is my area of concern, and that effect was negative.
Rep Dean: your relevant background?
Lloyd: came to ORR after time with knights of columbus, displaced populations in Iraq (not physically) and Syria, to investigate crimes they experienced at hands of ISIS. also experience as teacher.
Dean: tracked menstrual cycles of young girls/women in your custody.
Lloyd: not accurate characterization. not sure what you're talking about.
Dean: presses for answer
Lloyd: list that included women, mentioned their last period, way of tracking how long they've been pregnant
Dean: visited pregnant minors to pressure them to keep pregnancies?
Lloyd: not true
Dean: instructed staff to keep pregnant minors fro meeting with attorneys?
Lloyd: one instance we said for brief period of time bc wouldnt have been appropriate.
Dean: did you take initiative to assess mental health of children in your custody?
Lloyd: we do assess mental health of every child in custody within 24 hrs of them arriving in our care - both group and individual care. ongoing throughout their care in ORR.
Rep Escobar (from El Paso): we have dubious distinction of being testing ground for #familyseparation policy. Do we know how many kids separated July 2017 - April 2018? (before official policy)
CBP Provost: dont have that # with me. it's a number i can get.
CBP head Provost confirms families still being separated today, if parent had previous conviction for illegal entry. That qualifies as "criminal history" for which they would be separated from their children.
Rep. Mucarsel-Powell: (recently visited shelter)
Kids start at 630am dont get to bed until 10pm
high fencing around
definitely feels like a prison
kids housed in area 144 kids in one area with numbers
i believe we are committing a crime against humanity
Rep McBath: any instructions that you shouldn't track separated families?
ICE Asher: no instructions. but we had 3 diff agencies involved. systems silo'd. had to do manual crosschecks.
Cmdr White: i would be opposed to any process of separation or any cause other than best interests of child. It is within Congress to set those limits and you have not.
CBP head Provost: any time we have to deal with families, very difficult. i dont make the laws. my job to enforce them. it is a violation of law to enter illegally...
"I see the policy as designed to deliver a consequence for violating the law."
Rep Correa: why no central system to track separated families?
ICE Asher: when multi-agencies involved, systems dont talk to each other, we do need funding...we manage to best of abilities with system we have. We need IT monetization systems can talk to each other across agencies
Rep Lieu: 2000-2018 border crossings declined 75%?
CBP Provost: don't know number but yes declined
Lieu: vast majority of illicit drugs thru legal ports of entry?
Provost: that data reflects seizures - it's the unknown, that's what keeps me up at night.
Lieu: plays video of 17-mo-old Juliet crying after being reunited with mother after 2 months. ICE demanded $4k credit card payment - why?
ICE Asher: dispute that. no $ transaction. w/o details can't respond.
Here's the story, and video, of 17-month-old Juliet that Rep Lieu referenced.
It took 2 months to reunite Juliet with her mom, from whom she was separated at the border.…
2:04pm #familyseparation hearing concludes.
This thread ends here.
More on tonight's @NewsHour
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