July 11, 2018

Wyden, Durbin, Feinstein, Murray Call for Removal of Office of Refugee Resettlement Director

Senators Call Out HHS Secretary Azar’s Glaring Inaccuracies about Children Separated from Families at the Border

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, along with Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., today called on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to remove the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Their letter comes just a day after the administration failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunify children separated from their parents under Trump’s inhumane “zero-tolerance” policy, which his administration reversed after broad public outcry.

In the senators’ letter today, they also urged Azar to clarify misleading information he provided to the Finance Committee about the exact number and conditions of children separated from their parents at the border.

Since the Trump Administration enacted this policy, we have made numerous inquiries seeking simple facts about the number and location of separated children in HHS custody, the physical and mental health care provided to separated children, the conditions and plans for reunifying them with their parents, and HHS policies and procedures. We have received very little, and at times conflicting, information from the Trump Administration,” the senators wrote. "These inconsistent answers and the continued lack of a clear plan for the care and reunification of separated children show a glaring lack of leadership.” 

On June 26, Azar testified that, “there is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located.” The same day, Azar also testified that HHS has 2,047 separated children in its custody. However, just one week later, Azar stated in a conference call with reporters that there were up to 3,000 children in custody, contradicting his own testimony before Congress. Media reports indicate that many parents of separated children still do not know where their children are, and that their attempts to contact them have been unsuccessful. 

On June 21, Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, led Finance Committee Democrats in demanding to know how the Trump administration is ensuring the safety of children separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.

The full letter can be found here.