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Trump health official says he warned against separating children

Trump health official says he warned against separating children

A Trump administration official told lawmakers Tuesday that he warned against "any policy" separating children from their parents, citing concerns about their health and wellbeing.

"During the deliberative process over the previous year we raised a number of concerns in the ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] program about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child as well about whether that would be operationally supportable with the bed capacity we have," Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the administration's immigration policies.

"Separation of children from their parents entails significant risk of harm to children," White, the federal health coordinating official for the efforts to reunify migrant children and their families, added. "There's no question, there's no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child."

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White's comments came under questioning from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Blumenthal had asked the panel of Trump administration officials, including White, Border Patrol acting Chief Carla Provost and Matthew Albence, executive associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if they thought the immigration policies had been a success.

"Let me ask this panel, who here thinks that 'zero tolerance' has been a success?" Blumenthal asked. "You can just raise your hand if you think it's been a success." 

He followed up by asking: "Who thinks that the family separation policy has been a success? Raise your hand."

None of the officials raised their hands during his questioning.

"Did anyone, any member of this panel, say to anyone maybe this isn't such a good idea?" Blumenthal asked the panel.

White said he did not believe officials from the Department of Health and Human Services knew the administration's "zero tolerance" policy for migrants caught crossing the southern border would result in separations, and in fact warned against separating children.

"I was advised that there was no policy which would result in separation of children from family units," White said. 

The administration earlier this year instituted the zero tolerance policy, which prosecutes all adult migrants caught crossing the southern border illegally, leading to migrant children being separated from their parents.