Top House Democrats are asking federal agency watchdogs to conduct broad investigations into the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, including the separation of children from their parents and the president's recent executive order designed to halt the practice.
“We have grave concerns about how the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services considered, prepared for, and executed these policies,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter Friday to the inspectors general of each agency.
The letter was signed by Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer GOP congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik suing Candace Owens for defamation Former Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (Md.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump Jan. 6 panel to pursue criminal contempt referral for Bannon MORE (Miss.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottWatchdog: 7 members of Congress allegedly failed to disclose stock trades Pressure builds on Democratic leadership over HBCU funding Democrats hit crunch time for passing Biden agenda MORE (Va.) and Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats announce bill to rein in tech algorithms House Democrats ramp up probe of FDA approval of Alzheimer's drug Intercept bureau chief: Democrats dropping support of Medicare for All could threaten bill's momentum MORE (N.J.) — the ranking members on the committees for Oversight and Government Reform, the Judiciary, Homeland Security, Education and the Workforce, and Energy and Commerce, respectively.
The lawmakers expressed concern that the agencies failed to put in place adequate protocols to reunite children and their parents before implementing the policy.
They added that news reports suggest the Trump administration has been deporting parents alone and may be coercing them to waive their legal rights and leave the country in order to be reunited with their children.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS has in custody more than 2,000 children who were separated from their parents after being brought into country illegally.
The administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy called for the separations, but 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 later signed an executive order designed to keep families together while in detention.
A federal judge this week ordered the administration to return immigrant children younger than five years old to their parents within two weeks. Older children must be reunited within 30 days, the judge ordered.
The administration has failed to say how many children have been reunited with their parents since the order was signed, and it has given little indication that there is a plan in place to reunite families.
“The administration still has not provided consistent information on a family reunification plan, whether children are still being separated at the border, or whether your agencies have accurate information about whether detained children entered the United States as unaccompanied minors or were separated from their parents upon entry,” the Democrats wrote.
The HHS inspector general has already announced an investigation into the treatment of immigrant children at agency-run shelters. However, the probe will focus only on health and safety concerns.
The Democratic lawmakers said in their letter that while they support the effort, they want an expanded investigation.