Trump's Health chief defends treatment of children in border detention centers

Trump's Health chief defends treatment of children in border detention centers
© Greg Nash

The head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Wednesday that migrant children being held in detention centers after crossing the U.S. border have been treated well.

“We believe we are doing our best to care for these children extremely well,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during an event on health care hosted by The Washington Post.

He said children in the facilities are being provided with education, receiving dental care, medical care and psychological care, and are participating in athletics. 

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Azar said he has visited a detention facility on the southern border, but wouldn’t disclose which one.

"I think it's not good that we've been having so much attention focused on them," Azar said. "And that can actually subject our children to risk and I don't want to do that."

Azar argued that separating children from parents was a consequence of the parents crossing the border illegally.

"Nobody has ever desired to separate families. If you are arrested, your kids aren’t going to be with you. If you want to remain with your children, don’t come across the border illegally," Azar said. "Present yourself at a legal border crossing, make your case if you have a case to make ... don’t come across illegally because you’ll be separated from your children."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Pawlenty loses comeback bid in Minnesota Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE on Wednesday signed an executive order intended to end his administration's policy of family separations at the southern border.

The order calls on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to keep families together while people await trial for illegal border crossing except in cases where there is a concern that parents “would pose a risk to the child’s welfare.”

Azar said that under the order, families will remain together in DHS detention centers, not in the HHS shelters that house unaccompanied minors.

"Now with this change, the kids will be able to stay with the parents while they’re either prosecuted or adjudicated for deportation proceedings," Azar said.

Azar also said he thinks lawmakers who have actually toured the facilities, rather than just talking about them, “have been impressed by our grantees’ level of care and the quality services provided to these children.”