WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement reacting to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing systematic failings that traumatized children who were separated from their families at the border and allowed them to slip through the cracks of the system.
Merkley brought national attention to the Trump administration’s child separation policy when he was turned away from an HHS child detention facility in June 2018.
“Today’s report details shocking failures at every level of the administration. We must always remember that the victims of these failures are vulnerable children who looked to us for safety and instead received trauma and pain.
“These systematic breakdowns began with sheer incompetence and quickly escalated into cruelty. HHS did not plan or prepare for the child separation policy and had no extra beds ready for the children who would soon come into their care. As a result, children were left in temporary holding pens for days on end before being transferred to other facilities. Contrary to the administration’s insistence at the time, HHS also had no system to track which children had been separated or to connect them with their parents—compounding uncertainty, fear, medical endangerment and trauma for children who were separated from their families and detained in a strange country.
“Behind the policies and failures detailed in today’s report were thousands of children who paid the price in trauma and shattered trust. This report must strengthen our resolve to hold everyone involved fully accountable for their cruelty, to fight the administration’s continuing efforts to strand children in dangerous circumstances of our making, and to ensure that this never happens in the United States of America again.”