Matsui Joins E&C Democrats in Demanding Hearing on Child Detention Centers

“These children are at serious risk of suffering harm and severe trauma, and it is of utmost importance that we hear from all parties involved in their care”

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) joined 23 of her House Energy and Commerce Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) demanding an immediate hearing on the wellbeing of the children being forcibly separated from their parents and families and placed into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). 

“The President’s policy is inhumane and should be reversed as soon as possible,” the letter wrote. “In the meantime, we must ensure that ORR is properly caring for these children until they can be reunited with their parents.”  

The letter continued, “These children are at serious risk of suffering harm and severe trauma, and it is of utmost importance that we hear from all parties involved in their care to ensure that HHS is taking every step necessary to protect their safety and wellbeing.” 

According to reports, ORR shelters are now operating at 95 percent capacity and it is not clear that HHS has adequate staff and resources to provide appropriate housing, food, clothing, counseling, and other necessities to all children in its care. The number of children in ORR’s custody is expected to increase by an additional 18,500 children—or nearly 30,000 children in total—by August. The agency is so overwhelmed that it has reportedly resorted to housing children in a tent city in the desert outside of El Paso, Texas.

“To gain clarity on what children are being placed in ORR’s custody, how they are being cared for, and the long-term implications these policies may have on their health, we request that you hold a hearing as soon as possible,” the letter wrote.  “As part of this hearing, we urge you to invite key officials and other pediatric health care experts to testify regarding the chaos caused by this cruel policy.”  

The Democrats also raised experts’ concerns that it is impossible to mitigate the serious trauma caused by the Trump Administration’s decision to forcibly separate them from their parents regardless of the conditions inside of the ORR facilities.  Last week, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that this separation risks causing “irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture.”

The letter is available HERE.

Congresswoman Matsui has also joined a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Nielsen expressing deep concern about the agency’s decision to separate families at the border and requesting more information about DHS’s activities, and a letter to the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chair and Ranking Member requesting language limiting DHS’s ability to use funding to separate families.

Matsui is an original cosponsor of the Keeping Families Together Act, which prohibits DHS officials from separating children from their parents, as well as a resolution condemning the Administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy.