Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Hearing on Unaccompanied Children in HHS Care

2019-07-24 09:55

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee's hearing "Oversight of the Unaccompanied Children Program: Ensuring the Safety of Children in HHS Care":

I thank Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Cole for holding this hearing and thank the witnesses in each of the panels for joining today.

Last week, I, along with Chair DeLauro and several of my colleagues, toured the Homestead influx facility in Florida.  We saw firsthand the results of the Trump Administration's cruel policies, which directly led to backlogs and the use of massive, for-profit influx facilities like Homestead, instead of children being with their families.

I am very concerned that companies operating under no-bid contracts are making profits by holding children for months on end, to the detriment of those children and American taxpayers.

Children belong with families and loved ones, and facilities like Homestead must be the absolute last resort.   Unfortunately, for too many children, prospective sponsors who would care for them in loving homes are faced with a terrible choice – leaving these children in custody or identifying themselves as viable sponsors at the risk of themselves, their family, and their neighbors.

Given the Administration’s goal of stoking fear in immigrant communities, no one is surprised that many sponsors are too scared to come forward even with policies this committee has passed to ensure ICE can’t use data from ORR for deportation.

This is what happens when an Administration, at every turn, seeks to divide the country and play to its political base at all costs. 

The purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss the distinct needs of these children and ensure the federal government is abiding by our laws and our values.  Ensuring that children receive the proper care includes meeting physical needs like clothing, bathing, nutrition, health screenings, and education. It also means that we treat vulnerable children and families fleeing war and violence with decency, dignity, and respect.

Upholding these responsibilities is a tall order, especially with the Trump Administration.  The lives and well-being of thousands upon thousands of children depend on your agency fulfilling its responsibility.  I look forward to our discussion today.  Thank you.

116th Congress