HHS secretary: We're doing 'great acts of American generosity' for migrant children

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday said that what the U.S. is doing for immigrant children is “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”

“It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally,” Azar said on CNN's "The Situation Room."


The HHS chief said that he thinks the work they are doing is “saving kids' lives,” saying that 16 people claiming to be the children's parents are “demonstrably unfit,” have failed DNA tests and have been accused of child abuse and other offenses leading to reunification not being possible.

Azar made the comments after being asked by CNN host Wolf Blitzer about why HHS has consistently denied the media camera access into the facilities housing children. 

"We have nothing to hide about how we operate these facilities," Azar said.

His interview comes as the Trump administration continues to face backlash from Democratic and Republican lawmakers over its immigration policies.

Despite signing an executive order to end the practice of separating children from their families at the southern border, many officials have continued to question how President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE intends to reunite the thousands of families that were already separated. 

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice missed a court-ordered deadline to reunite all children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parents. 

Government lawyers said that U.S. officials would only be able to reunite 75 of 102 children under the age of 5 in the custody of the HHS.

“These are firm deadlines; they are not aspirational goals,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said. “I would like the process to continue as expeditiously as it has been with paramount focus on the children’s welfare.”

The court has ordered separated children older than age 5 be reunited with their parents by July 26.

Many groups have criticized the conditions in which these children are being held in, as well. But Azar pushed back against that notion, saying children are being kept in a "compassionate environment." 

He also said that it was HHS's job to ensure that the children were not reunited with their families under dangerous conditions. It is a reason why Azar said they are taking their time to confirm parentage and do criminal background checks.