Tags: Immigration | Mexico | Trump Administration | alex azar | hhs | border separation | heath and human services

HHS Secretary Azar: 'No Confusion' on Detained Immigrant Children

(Fox News' "America's Newsroom")

By    |   Thursday, 05 July 2018 12:47 PM

There is "absolutely no confusion" about the whereabouts of thousands of immigrant children or the process that needs to be taken to reunite them with their families if it is possible to do so, but care must be taken to confirm the parents are "suitable," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

"We have the kids and we are working to comply with the court's order and what that involves," Azar told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" about a court's deadline for reuniting the families. "This is something we do. We've done this for years and years, dealing with children who are separated from their parents as part of illegal immigration into the United States."

Azar said the process includes confirming people claiming to be the childrens' parents really are their family, and the parents also are suitable to get their children back.

"We're operating at this point under an artificial deadline set by the court to make that happen, and we will do the best we can to ensure child welfare consistent with the court's order," Azar said. "We'll comply with the court's order . . . there is no confusion whatsoever."

In all, there are about 11,800 children who are not with their parents, said Azar.

"We are the department that deals with separated children," he said. "We have dealt with over the last several years hundreds of thousands of children who have left their parents or whose parents have sent them illegally into this country, and they come into our custody. We deal with the children who are here, came with purported parents and were detained by immigration authorities for illegally crossing the border and have come into our custody."

Children are not returned to the care of the Department of Homeland Security, he added, because of a court order forbidding DHS from holding family units together longer than 20 days.

"You would have to separate the children and give them to us, so historically we don't focus on reunifying them," Azar said. "We now have a conflicting court order more recent saying send the kids back and reunify them into the Department of Homeland Security's custody. That just came out a week ago Tuesday."

Part of the issue, Azar said, "we have to confirm that these are, in fact, their parents and we have to confirm that they are appropriate people to be having custody of these children. Let me give you an example that I just learned about this morning. Of these children that we have that are age 0 to 4, two of those children's purported parents have been charged with or convicted of rape and kidnapping, child abuse, and narcotics violations. We are supporting child welfare and working to protect these kids."

It might seem easy to say to reunify families, he added, but "we have a vital and historic mission here to protect these children to make sure they're in fact their parents and make sure it is a safe environment we place them back into. We use every minute of time the court gives us against its deadline to assure that mission of child welfare and support for these kids is fulfilled."

Meanwhile, he insisted, every child is accounted for.

"We know every child, where they are," Azar said. "We know the record the last time every child had their fingernails clipped. We have comprehensive records on each child in our care and custody. We will work with the court and doing so today and support from the court to allow us to do our job to ensure that in fact these are parents of the children, and ensure that they are suitable individuals to go back to these parents for."

Part of that includes DNA testing on everyone who claims to be the parent of one of the children, Azar said, and birth certificates are checked.

"We have contractors out to ICE facilities to sit with the parents to get information to prove suitability and parentage of them, to work through the process," he said. "What we care about is the kids' welfare."

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The whereabouts of thousands of immigrant children is not unknown, despite reports, but care must be taken to confirm the parents are "suitable," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.
alex azar, hhs, border separation, heath and human services, immigrant children
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2018-47-05
Thursday, 05 July 2018 12:47 PM
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