March 02, 2020

Wyden and Warren Demand Answers on Allegations that Trump Administration Has Been Using Confidential Therapy Notes to Detain and Deport Migrant Children

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., today demanded answers from the Trump administration regarding allegations that confidential information disclosed by unaccompanied migrant children to mental health professionals is being distorted and used against these children by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pursue deportation or prolonged detention.

Wyden and Warren today sent separate letters to Assistant Secretary for the Administration of Children and Families Lynn Johnson and U.S. ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence following an investigation by the Washington Post alleging that the Office of Refugee and Resettlement (ORR) shares confidential information obtained through private sessions between unaccompanied migrant children and their therapists with ICE officials. It appears that this information is then used by ICE and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials during asylum proceedings and court filings arguing against asylum.

“ORR is required to act in the best interest of migrant children in their care, as determined by federal law and the Flores Settlement. We are concerned that ORR’s reporting practices run counter to those obligations,” Wyden and Warren wrote to both Johnson and Albence. “Children must have the opportunity to openly share their experiences with their therapists and care providers. They must be able to do so without the fear that what they disclose will later influence their asylum applications. The practice of sharing confidential clinical notes discourages these children from confiding in their therapists and care providers to get the help they need. . . . Trump administration officials recently claimed that this practice has been addressed and resolved by ORR, but we have seen no evidence of this.”

To help the senators better understand how ORR fulfills its mission and meets its requirements to care for unaccompanied migrant children within its custody, as well as how and why ICE obtains confidential data regarding unaccompanied migrant children, Wyden and Warren requested answers to their questions by March 20, 2020.

A copy of the letter to the Administration for Children and Families can be found here.

A copy of the letter to ICE can be found here.