House Chairs Urge Trump Administration to Rescind Child Migrant Information-Sharing Memo
(WASHINGTON) – Today, several House committee and subcommittee chairpersons sent a letter to the Trump Administration urging it to rescind a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) requiring information about sponsors for migrant children be shared by HHS with DHS, where the information is then used to deport a child’s family and loved ones. The MOA has negatively impacted the ORR shelter system and possibly contributed to the current prolonged detention of child migrants in overcrowded, squalid conditions.
An excerpt from the letter reads:
“The effect of this MOA is clear. ICE used information from ORR to arrest approximately 170 prospective sponsors. These arrests have had a chilling effect and deterred other individuals from coming forward to sponsor children. One survey found that three in four professionals working with unaccompanied children ‘were aware of potential sponsors deciding not to come forward or withdrawing’ due to the MOA.”
The letter, led by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has also been signed by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee; Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chairwoman of the House Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee; and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
Dear Secretary Azar and Acting Secretary McAleenan:
We write concerning the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between your Departments that requires information collected for the benefit of children in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be shared with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deport a child’s family and loved ones. This policy has led to cruel outcomes for children and sponsors and is unnecessary to secure the homeland. We urge you to rescind it immediately.
Historically, your Departments have not used information obtained from detained children—or families who seek to care for them—to target individuals for deportation. The May 2018 MOA between the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), breaks with history by mandating a continuous sharing of information on unaccompanied children in government custody. With no limits on how this information can be used, the process for ensuring the safe placement of children could be weaponized as a tool for immigration enforcement.
The effect of this MOA is clear. ICE used information from ORR to arrest approximately 170 prospective sponsors. These arrests have had a chilling effect and deterred other individuals from coming forward to sponsor children. One survey found that three in four professionals working with unaccompanied children “were aware of potential sponsors deciding not to come forward or withdrawing” due to the MOA.
In addition to a smaller pool of sponsors, the MOA has undermined ORR’s efforts to address the capacity shortage in its shelter network for unaccompanied children. The Trump Administration’s harmful policies toward migrant children have caused some states and non-profit shelters to repeatedly reject HHS’ efforts to expand shelter capacity.
With unprecedented numbers of children in government custody, these circumstances have led to children being held in CBP facilities well beyond the allowable 72 hours and in appalling conditions. ORR is also increasingly reliant on so-called “influx” or “emergency” facilities that lack the protections of state-licensed shelters. Moreover, these temporary shelters cost at least three times more than licensed shelters, resulting in ORR funding being depleted faster.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 DHS Appropriations Act generally prohibits DHS from information sharing under the MOA. This language is also included in the FY 2019 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act. However, this congressional prohibition alone is insufficient assurance for potential sponsors that taking in a family member will not later be used against them. DHS’ insertion into ORR’s sponsorship process does nothing to assist in the placement of children to safe homes and only hinders ORR’s ability to respond to the surging numbers of unaccompanied children at the border.
For these reasons, we urge you to rescind the information sharing MOA immediately. Thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this matter.
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Thompson: Adam Comis
Pallone: CJ Young
Nadler: Daniel Schwarz
Lowey: Evan Hollander
DeLauro: Will Serio
Roybal-Allard: Ben Soskin
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