Reps. Roybal-Allard & DeLauro Call for Immediate Closure of Tornillo Tent City Facility
Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen calling for the immediate closure of Tornillo, a tent city facility for child migrants. The Trump administration has expanded capacity and extended the contract for this so-called temporary shelter multiple times this year despite prevalent issues at the facility that put children at risk. By using Tornillo, the Trump administration is circumventing long-held standards for the care of children established by the Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
“We are particularly concerned by the November 27, 2018 Office of Inspector General (OIG) memorandum and subsequent media reports exposing that the Administration has waived child abuse and neglect checks for more than 2,000 staff members and allowed employees and contractors without FBI fingerprint checks to be in regular and close contact with children,” wrote the Members. “The OIG memorandum also showed that the facility has dangerously low mental health staffing ratios. The choice former Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd made not to conduct staff background checks can cause ‘potential abuse and neglect of these kids,’ according to Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Department’s decision to allow a 1:100 clinician-to-child ratio is especially alarming given that these children have likely already experienced ‘significant trauma,’ according to the OIG memorandum, which questions how such low staffing levels could allow for proper mental health care. It is clear the Administration’s actions are putting thousands of children in danger.”
“For these reasons, we call for the immediate closure of the Tornillo facility,” continued the Members. “As the top Democrats on the subcommittees that fund the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, we will be conducting strict oversight in the new Congress on the Administration’s care of migrant children and will be looking closely at limiting the Administration’s ability to perpetuate the mistreatment of these children.”
A copy of the signed letter can be found here.