Harris, Gillibrand, Klobuchar call upon ORR to reform migrant children policies

Harris, Gillibrand, Klobuchar call upon ORR to reform migrant children policies
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Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOutsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Poll: Buttigieg leads Democratic field in Iowa Press: Another billionaire need not apply MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Harris proposes keeping schools open for 10 hours a day MORE (D-N.Y.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPress: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism Warren on winning over male voters: I was told to 'smile more' MORE (D-Minn.) wrote a letter Wednesday to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) asking it to change policies regarding its handling of migrant children. 

The three presidential contenders accused the agency of holding children in facilities for longer than necessary and contracting with organizations that do not properly vet staff and that are not equipped to care for children.

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The senators specifically reference a facility in Homestead, Fla., that they visited last week in the letter to ORR Director Jonathan Hayes.

They wrote that it should prioritize reunifying children with their families rather than making them stay longer in U.S. custody. 

"We must not compromise on the wellbeing of children the government is responsible for. ORR should be prioritizing reunification of every child as soon as possible, but instead it has been responsible for policies that are forcing longer stays in government custody for children," they wrote.

"You now have the funding you said you needed, and your office must ensure that the custody and processing of [unaccompanied children] is meeting the minimum standards required by domestic and international law," they added. 

They also, citing reports of overcrowding, urged the ORR to "ensure these 'temporary' shelters remain temporary." 

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services for comment. 

The treatment of migrant children has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, amid reports of conditions where they are being held. Attorneys told The Associated Press that children held in Border Patrol facilities, not run by the ORR, went weeks without bathing and were only given meals that included uncooked frozen food or rice.

Harris, Gillibrand and Klobuchar are among more than two dozen people vying for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination.