Government watchdog accepts Dem request to audit family separations

Government watchdog accepts Dem request to audit family separations
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The government's top watchdog announced Wednesday that it had accepted a request from the House Energy and Commerce Committee's ranking member to audit the Trump administration's process for tracking separated migrant families.

In a letter to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it would review the "systems or processes" by which the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keep track of migrant adults and children who are separated from their families.

Pallone requested the audit after President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE and administration officials did not put forth a plan to do so following his executive order that ended migrant family separations.

More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents between April and May under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. The policy, which seeks to aggressively prosecute those found crossing into the U.S. illegally, drew massive bipartisan backlash for leading to thousands of children being separated from their parents. 

Bowing to pressure, Trump reversed part of his policy and signed an executive order ending most family separations last week. The order, however, made no provisions for those who had already been separated under the policy.

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“While I hope that President Trump’s June 20 Executive Order will put an end to this immoral practice, that Order is entirely prospective, and does not speak to how the Administration will reunite the 2,342 children already separated from their families," Pallone wrote to GAO officials last week.

“To bring accountability and ensure these children are properly accounted for and ultimately reunited with their families, Congress needs an immediate assessment of the systems or processes by which ORR and DHS are tracking each minor in their care, as well as their respective parents or guardians from whom they were separated," he added.

The announcement that GAO would open a probe into the family reunification efforts comes just hours after HHS's own inspector general announced a separate investigation into the conditions at child detention facilities around the country.

"Specifically, this review will focus on a variety of safety- and health-related issues such as employee background screening, employees' clinical skills and training, identification and response to incidents of harm, and facility security," the OIG said.