March 8, 2023  

Government Accountability Project Sends Letter to President Biden with Concerns Regarding the Proposed Reinstatement of Family Detention 

WASHINGTON — Today, Government Accountability Project sent a letter to President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Security Mayorkas on behalf of whistleblower clients Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, DHS subject matter experts in medical and mental health, renewing their concerns about harms to children caused by family detention. Recent reporting revealed that the Biden Administration is considering reinstating family detention after ending the practice just two years ago. DHS Secretary Mayorkas confirmed on March 7, 2023, that DHS is considering this option.  

Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson are physicians, an internist and child and adolescent psychiatrist respectively, who serve as contracted experts to conduct investigations for DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of ICE family detention centers, some of which have involved serious harms, including deaths. After warning internally about the well-documented harm to children in detention settings, in 2018 they publicly, and repeatedly, began to raise the alarm to DHS, Congress and the public about the harms to immigrant children in DHS detention—and how those harms are foreseeable and exacerbated by systemic weaknesses in the ability of the detention facilities to meet minimal standards of care and protect children. Their concerns about substantial harm to children posed by family detention, which they also shared with the current administration in 2021, have been supported and echoed by the medical community 

Drs. Allen and McPherson state in their letter:  

“Nothing has changed since we began to sound the alarm about the harms inherent to the detention of children. We have no reason to believe that the conditions of custody will adequately protect the medical and mental health needs of families in detention. In fact, the fundamental flaw that gives rise to harm is the detention of children and families itself. No amount of programming can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. As medical professionals, we once more have a duty to warn the administration of imminent harm to children and their families. With clear warnings from the medical community, any effort to again implement the practice of family detention is a decision to knowingly create substantial and specific harm to children and has no place in a humane and just border policy.”  


Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director   

Email: [email protected]   

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.