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 made disclosures to the DHS Inspector General, the Director of CRCL, the Senate Whistleblower Caucus leadership, and other members of Congress. They revealed 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. 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. Government Accountability Project worked with the doctors to develop testimony for Senate hearings and brief members of Congress on the doctors’ disclosures.
In November 2018, Drs. Allen and McPherson spoke to the American public directly for the first time in an interview with 60 Minutes, sharing their experience as DHS whistleblowers and condemning threats to children’s health and safety under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.