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HHS cuts in migrant children services inhumane

June 12, 2019
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

The recent announcement from HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) that it will stop providing services to migrant children held in federal detention "that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety" was breathtaking in its suddenness and cruelty.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement started discontinuing funding for activities, including English classes, recreation, as well as legal aid to assist children navigate our complex immigration system.

In an NPR interview with Rachel Martin this morning, Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense said there will definitely be a legal challenge. She explained that "it violates the settlement in Flores v. Reno, which ruled explicitly that detained children are required to have access to things like education services, English language training, recreation time, and social work staff."

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, in a statement, called the move "cruel, craven, and illegal."

Since HHS said it was pulling back on its activities "that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety," Wendy Young made the case that legal representation to navigate our complex immigration system is essential to "protection of life and safety" of these children since most were fleeing violence and, if deported, will be returned to it. She used the example of a 5-year-old child facing a deportation judge without representation and being required to make a case for asylum alone.

There used to be a time when all decent human beings agreed that suffering and cruelty inflicted on children was inhumane and unAmerican. It's time to return to those values.

Susan McGuire

on behalf of Pine Island ROAR (Rise Up, Organize, Activate, Resist)




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