Two House Committees: the Oversite Committee and the Judiciary Committee held hearings last week on family separation at the border. As part of those hearings there were reports that a significant number of children have been subjected to child sexual abuse while being cared for as unaccompanied minors. Figures released indicated that HHS has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against detained migrant children from 2014-2018.

The figures emerged during the Judiciary Committee hearing when Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) said “These documents demonstrate over the past three years there have been 154 staff-on-unaccompanied-minor – let me repeat that, staff-on-unaccompanied-minor – allegations of sexual assault.”

Jonathan White, Commander, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in HHS responded that the abuse was by contracted staff and not HHS employees. Congressman Deutch also released HHS charts with information describing the incidents and a copy of the ORR policy regarding sexual abuse.

After the hearing, the Acting Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Jonathan Hayes, criticized the Congressman’s characterization of the incidents saying,

“His knowing mischaracterization of the data—and his impugning of the ORR federal staff—was an immoral and indecent insult to all of the career civil servants who are dedicated to ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the children in the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) program,”