In July 2018, Government Accountability Project clients Dr. Scott Allen and Dr. Pamela McPherson, medical and mental health subject matter experts for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS/CRCL), made the brave decision to blow the whistle on the government’s child detention practices. Through their disclosures, they sought to prevent the ongoing risk of harm to children and families posed by the Trump administration’s implementation of its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy at the U.S. southern border.

After conducting 10 investigations of family detention centers over the course of four years, Drs. Allen and McPherson disclosed to the DHS Inspector General, the Director of CRCL, the Senate Whistleblower Caucus leadership, and other members of Congress evidence of gross mismanagement and failures to comply with legal standards governing family detention facilities that resulted in direct harm to children. They described cases in which children experienced severe weight loss, accidental vaccinations with adult doses, and dangerously slow medical attention. Read the doctors’ letter to Congress detailing their concerns about harm to immigrant children in detention centers here.

Dr. Allen and Dr. McPhersonwhose activism was profiled in The New York Timesalso attracted the attention of the larger medical community. A week after Dr. McPherson and Dr. Allen presented their findings to U.S. Senators Grassley and Wyden, 14 medical and mental health provider organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Pediatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Psychological Association sent a letter in solidarity with the Doctors to Senate and House leadership. The medical community wrote:

“Our organizations strongly oppose the separation of migrant children from their parents. Family separation can cause irreparable harm to children, and it is an act from which some families may never recover.”

On July 31, 2018, Drs. Allen’s and McPherson presented written testimony tothe Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing on Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification EffortsTheir testimony puts Congress on notice that policies that expand rather than minimize family detention will cause foreseeable harm.  

Demand that Congress immediately hold oversight hearings on the harmful and life-threatening detention facilities at the southern U.S. border. With thousands of children at risk, there is no time to lose. 

Sign the Physicians for Human Rights’ Petition Supporting Drs. Allen & McPherson and Calling on Congress to Act on Family Detention Now.


Help Government Accountability Project support brave whistleblowers, like Drs. Allen and McPherson, who are speaking up about the harms posed by the administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. With your assistance, we are able to:

  • Help employees and contractors promote accountability and protect the public interest while navigating the risks they face when disclosing abuses of power.
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child looking through a fence