Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) sent a letter to the Office of Inspectors General for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding answers about the handling of separated children at the border. Two recent troubling reports about children being held in vans overnight and the confiscation of life-saving medicine have compelled Rep. Schrier, a pediatrician, to request an investigation by the Inspectors General.
“As a pediatrician and mom, I was appalled and extremely disappointed to read the recent reports about mistreatment of migrant families. Taking care of children should be a top priority and is not a partisan issue,” said Rep. Schrier. “How these children have been treated doesn’t live up to the values of our country. This behavior is un-American. It is wrong. And it must be prevented from happening again.”
In her letter, Rep. Schrier says that based on what the reports say about the treatment of children at the border, it could have lifelong effects on their health and well-being. She also says that it is critical that Congress and the American people have a full understanding of what happened so we can prevent future incidents.
Representative Schrier’s Letter
Dear Acting Inspectors General John V. Kelly and Joanna Chiedi,
In light of recent troubling reports of the mistreatment of asylum-seeking families and migrant children separated from their parents, I write to request a full review of the reunification process and handling of medications at processing and holding centers.
I am deeply concerned by the June 3, 2019 NBC News report that found children were left in vans for hours at a time last summer after Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents left for the night. According to the report, in July 2018, 37 children between the ages of 5 and 12 were left in vans for an average of 23 hours while they were waiting for the facility to process their reunification paperwork.
We can discuss immigration policies and disagree about how we choose to handle adults entering our country. But at no time should we be putting children at risk. As a pediatrician, I know this treatment, and more generally the separation of children from their families, has life-long physical and emotional consequences.
Even more alarming than the above was a June 4, 2019 Yahoo News report that border patrol agents are regularly confiscating medications for chronic conditions without providing timely replacements. For many of the conditions described, these medications are not optional. According to the report, medication was routinely taken from adults and increasingly from children suffering from asthma, seizure disorders, and diabetes. As a doctor and person living with Type 1 diabetes, I am well-aware of the deadly consequences of untreated diabetes and was particularly troubled to read of a 15-year-old who arrived in a shelter from custody in diabetic ketoacidosis. Withholding lifesaving medications is cruel and creates deadly conditions.
It is critical that we have a full understanding of what has happened in these facilities, so we can prevent future incidents. Therefore, I urge the Office of the Inspector General to immediately investigate the reunification process for children separated from their parents, circumstances surrounding the extended holding of children in vans in July 2018, and the handling of medication for asylum seekers, including the following:
- Why did CBP agents leave the facility for the night after DHS sent notification that the children were headed to the facility?
- How widespread was this? Did other facilities experience long processing delays? Were children held in vehicles at other facilities?
- Were officials acting in compliance of the 2018 court order to reunify families?
- Why did it take so long to process the children for reunification?
- Was this the only time children were held in vans overnight? What is the average amount of time children were held in vehicles?
- Who made the decision that the vans were safer and healthier place for the children?
- Was there adult supervision in all the vans?
- What were the ages of the children held in the vans?
- Were children allowed to use the bathroom? How much food was provided?
- Was a trained health professional with pediatric experience monitoring the children?
- What changes were put in place following the reported incident?
- What is the official policy on outside medicine?
- What happens to medicine that is confiscated? Why is it confiscated?
- If medication has been confiscated, what is the average time migrants wait before obtaining a replacement US prescription?
- What medical care is provided to children at processing centers and holding centers? How long after arriving are migrants seen by medical professionals?
- How many pediatric trained providers are at processing and holding centers?
The health and welfare of children should be our priority, no matter their country of origin or the decisions of their parents. I appreciate your prompt attention to this request so we can take all necessary steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08)
The above is a press release from the office of Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents.