For Immediate Release:
Monday, March 25, 2019
Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project, AndrewH@whistleblower.org | 202.457.0034 x156
DHS Whistleblowers Raise New Concerns
To Congress About Child Detention
Congresswoman Jayapal Sends Letter To DHS Demanding Answers
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whistleblowers, Dr. Scott Allen and Dr. Pamela McPherson, sent a letter to Congress late last week raising new concerns about child detention, the potential that DHS is not following the advice of their own experts and that DHS is not conducting on-site inspections of detention facilities.
Working with the Government Accountability Project, Drs. Allen and McPherson, who serve as medical and mental health subject-matter experts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), first blew the whistle to Congress last summer.
You can see their disclosures from last summer here.
Following their disclosure last summer, fourteen leading medical professional associations immediately echoed their concerns, which were widely reported and remarked upon at congressional oversight hearings.
In their new letter to Congress, Drs. Allen and McPherson raise concerns that:
- DHS CRCL may not be conducting on-site investigations into complaints at family detention centers since the issuance of the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
- The Trump administration has reversed implementation of recommendations from early DHS CRCL investigative teams, including detaining children under the age of two.
- DHS’s expansion of family detention not only constitutes knowing endangerment of children but has resulted in real harm.
The letter, in part states,
“Despite having raised the alarm about imminent harm to children in detention with Congress and DHS, including submitting written testimony at two Senate hearings into DHS policies and practices and offering written comments opposing DHS’s proposal to overturn the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) (which, if implemented, would allow for indefinite detention of children despite DHS’s awareness that even limited detention causes medical and psychological harm to children), family detention has expanded with no evidence that the systemic problems with the provision of medical and mental health care have been addressed.”
You can see their full letter to Congress here.
Congresswoman Jayapal (WA-7), a leading voice in Congress in opposition to the Trump administration’s policies of family separation and child detention, responded to the letter from Drs. Allen and McPherson, by sending a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen seeking immediate answers.
The Congresswoman states in her letter:
“I write to express my deep alarm about reports that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL) is detaining increasing numbers of infants and is not investigating complaints at family detention facilities. Detention is never appropriate for children, especially for infants. Following the death of two young children in your custody, these allegations are disturbing and warrant immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of children.”
The Congresswoman goes on to ask for answers to the following questions within 30 days:
- “Please share any current policies pertaining to the detention of children under the age of two in DHS custody.
- Has the agency reversed or otherwise modified implementation of recommendations from early DHS CRCL investigative teams, including a recommendation against detention of children under the age of two? If so, what was the rationale for any such decision? Were child welfare and medical and mental health experts consulted? If so, please describe the level of medical training of each expert, as well as each expert’s prior history of work in or regarding a detained setting.
- Since September 2017, how many times has CRCL inspected family detention facilities in person? For each inspection, was a medical and mental health subject matter expert involved? If so, please describe the level of medical training of each expert, as well as each expert’s prior history of work in or regarding a detained setting.
- Since implementation of the “zero-tolerance” policy, how many complaints have been filed regarding care at ICE family detention facilities? Please provide a breakdown.
a. Of the nature of the complaints;
b. By facility;
c. The number of complaints that resulted in on-site investigations, and if so how many on-site investigations per complaint;
d. For each on-site inspection, was a medical and mental health subject matter expert involved? If so, please describe the level of medical training of each expert, as well as each expert’s prior history of work in or regarding a detained setting.
e. A breakdown of the result of any investigations, including whether recommendations issued by investigators were implemented and the current status of those recommendations;
5. How many children under the age of two are currently in ICE custody? Please provide a breakdown by 0-6 months, 7 months to one year, and one to two years old, as well as the minimum, median, and maximum length of detention.
6. How many children under the age of two were in ICE custody in fiscal year 2016, 2017, and 2018? Please provide a breakdown by 0-6 months, 7 months to one year, and one to two years old, as well as the minimum, median, and maximum length of detention by fiscal year.”
You can see her full letter here.
Government Accountability Project
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C