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Rose Mary Sullivan, CND

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Report issued January 2019

You can read the report here:

The key take away from this report is that the exact total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities at our southern border is unknown. We do know that in the spring of 2018, a zero tolerance policy for certain immigration offenses was announced by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Implementation of this policy often resulted in children being separated from their parent or guardian. Public opposition to the policy grew in the next few months. The policy was challenged in Federal Court in California and in responding to a June 2018 Court Order; HHS identified 2,737 children in its care at that time who were separated from their parents in the time since the new policy was announced.

However, this Inspector General’s report estimates that thousands of children were being separated from their parents for at least one year before the administration announced the separation policy to the public. Prior to the court order, HHS was not required to keep records of the identity to track the locations of these children or their family members. They did not do so. Where are these children now? How old are they? Are they with relatives or still in detention centers? Were these children old enough to know their own names?

The Administration’s policy not only violated the rights of these families, it did not comply with the Flores Agreement which forbids the Federal government to detain children under the age of 18 for more than 20 days. Children and their families had to be released together at that time. A number of children separated from their families were younger than 4 years old. Because of careless record keeping, we do not really know how many children are still separated from their families and the Administration’s continued goal of using separation as a deterrent to immigration has compromised its half-hearted attempt to provide reliable and complete information.

When I read this report, I became even more grateful for the presence of Congregation of Notre Dame Volunteers at our border. Then, I thought of this way to make our CND presence felt in Washington—in Congress. I am asking all who are able to call both of their Senators and their Representative to ask them to hold hearings To Demand Accountability on the issue of children still separated from their parents from Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen, from the Justice Department, and from Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services. The hearings should inquire into the housing of these children, investigate if individuals or companies profited from that housing, and demand the immediate identification and reunification of those children still separated from their families. Please make the calls within the next two weeks for maximum effect.

I am concerned that talk of the Wall, the government shut down, and the immigration crisis at our border have taken so much of our country’s attention that the child victims of the Administration’s heartless policy have been forgotten. All of us can’t go to the border but most of us can make a phone call. We can be a voice for the voiceless and act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at our southern border. Thank you, for your response to this call.

Calling Your Legislator: A step-by-step guide

  • Call congressional offices directly or through the switchboard. If you do not have the direct number, you can reach US representatives by calling 202-225-3121, and US senators by calling 202-224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to the individual office. If you do not know the names of your members of Congress or want the direct line to their office, you can find your senators here and your representative here.
  • Ask to speak to the Aide who works on immigration issues. (You may want to take note of the aide’s name for future use) If you cannot speak directly with the aide, leave a message with the receptionist stating your views. 
  • Let them know that you are a constituent. Elected officials are most interested in your opinions if you are their constituent, so be sure to say the city and state you are from.
  • Know your facts. Be sure you have the basic information about your topic in front of you when you call. You should be able to specifically describe the topic about which you are calling and state your opinion on what your legislator should do. (See the paragraph with the ask in my article to write your message.)
  • Note your expertise. If you have professional experience (ex.Teaching, working with families, etc.) on the issue on which you are calling, be sure to mention it. It will help to establish your credibility on the issue and may even prompt the aide to ask you for some guidance on the issue.
  • Be brief. Aides receive a high volume of phone calls every day, so keep your call short.


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