HHS official overseeing immigrant shelters changes roles to assist with coronavirus response

HHS official overseeing immigrant shelters changes roles to assist with coronavirus response
© Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Health and Human Services (HHS) official who was in charge of overseeing the department’s shelters for immigrants has changed roles, the agency announced Friday. 

An official for HHS said that Jonathan Hayes, who had served as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), will now work on HHS’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“At the beginning of March, as part of the Department’s work to combat COVID-19, Secretary Azar directed his Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dr. Robert Kadlec, to lead HHS’s interdepartmental incident response structure, in line with the Department’s emergency support function responsibilities," the official said. "To assist in this endeavor, Jonathan Hayes has been named Senior Advisor in the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response."

ADVERTISEMENT

“Hayes has served as the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and brings a tremendous amount of experience managing complex logistical challenges as Director of ORR, under often difficult and dynamic circumstances," the official added.

Hayes’s role overseeing ORR thrust him into the spotlight amid the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies, including the now-scrapped “zero tolerance” policy that led to a spike in family separations at the border. 

Hayes has had the top ORR job since February 2019 when the department was experiencing a flood of referrals of unaccompanied children who were apprehended by Border Patrol agents after crossing the border.

ORR clashed with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Hayes’s tenure. Senior officials reportedly pushed to have ICE agents inside ORR facilities last year, but the administration ultimately chose to allow ICE only to collect fingerprints from people who sought to pick up immigrant children at government shelters.