VIDEO: Pingree Wins Protections to Keep Migrant Siblings Together
Washington, D.C.—During committee markup today, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s amendment to the Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill, which would ensure that migrant siblings are kept together whenever possible while in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
In her testimony, Pingree recounted what she saw on her recent trip to the border, including children locked in ice-cold facilities without their parents and crying mothers who did not know where their children were taken. She also highlighted concerns that additional trauma is being caused by separating siblings from each other.
VIDEO of Pingree's testimony above.
“We are hearing from organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with major concerns that siblings are being unnecessarily separated under HHS care. This includes children who have been forcibly separated from their parents or legal guardians and those who have crossed the border together but are unaccompanied. The Trump Administration has not, to my knowledge, answered any questions about its policies on sibling placement, whether they are in ORR facilities or placed with sponsors—yet another example of their lack of transparency on this issue,” Pingree said in her testimony.
“Just to be clear, I am unconditionally opposed to the President’s horrific family separation policies. But as we work to end these policies, and I hope mitigate some of the damage we’ve caused, the least we can do is keep siblings together whenever possible. In traumatic situations like these … they’re lifelines for each other, especially in looking out for those who are very young. If at the very least we can spare these children some trauma and give their parents some peace of mind by ensuring that siblings are kept together, it needs to be made a priority.”
Pingree’s amendment reads: “To the extent practicable, and so long as it is appropriate and in the best interest of the child, in cases where the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the care of siblings who are unaccompanied alien children, the Director of the Office shall place the siblings in the same facility, or with the same sponsor.”
House Appropriations Democrats are introducing as many as 22 amendments today dealing with separated migrant children. The House Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill covers funding for the Office of Refugee Settlement, which has been charged with caring for unaccompanied minors at the border.