From left, Customs and Border Protection U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla Provost, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Executive Associate Director of Enforcement And Removal Operations Matthew Albence, Federal Health Coordinating Official for the 2018 UAC Reunification Effort Cmdr. Dr Jonathan White, Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry III, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Associate Director of Refugee, Asylum And International Operations Jennifer Higgins, are sworn in to testify as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the Trump administration's policies on immigration enforcement and family reunification efforts, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 31, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Latest: HHS officials warned against family separations

July 31, 2018 - 1:57 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on a Senate hearing about separating migrant families (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

A Department of Health and Human Services official says his agency warned the Trump administration that separating migrant families at the border would be dangerous for children.

Commander Jonathan D. White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a branch of HHS, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "There's no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child."

But some of the government's top immigration officials used the hearing Tuesday to defend how the policy has been implemented, with one comparing family detention centers to "a summer camp."

Matthew Albence, an executive associate director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the facilities undergo rigorous inspections and offer recreation, food and water around the clock and medical and dental care.


12:11 p.m.

Top federal immigration officials are defending their handling of the Trump administration's now-abandoned family separation policy before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Matthew Albence is an executive associate director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under questioning by Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, Albence says the agency has records documenting decisions by hundreds of migrant parents to leave the U.S. without their children. Senators have expressed doubt that many parents willingly left their children behind.

Albence is also defending his agency's treatment of detained immigrants following reports that some suffered sexual and other forms of abuse at government detention facilities. He says he's "very comfortable" with immigrants' treatment.

Acting Chief Carla L. Provost of the U.S. Border Patrol says, "We do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty."


10:45 a.m.

A top Democratic senator says Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should resign. Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin made the remark at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where lawmakers from both parties criticized the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from families.

Durbin says President Donald Trump's family policy is "cruel" and says, "Someone in this administration has to accept responsibility."

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley says Trump's crackdown on people illegally crossing the border from Mexico was well-intentioned but has had unintended consequences. The Iowa Republican says the administration has "mishandled" family separations.

He also cited reports that immigrants have experienced sexual and other abuse at some detention facilities and said those held must be treated humanely.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies planned to testify.


12:13 a.m.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding answers from federal immigration officials about the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from their families and its struggle to reunite them.

But a hearing scheduled for Tuesday on the topic may have a wider focus after the committee's bipartisan leaders asked federal investigators to probe reports of sexual and other abuse of immigrants at government detention facilities.

The committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and top panel Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California asked late Monday for an examination of alleged sexual, physical and emotional mistreatment of immigrants held at agency facilities. The senators say the problems may have been occurring since 2014 or earlier.

The request for the investigation elevates yet another issue to the Trump administration's list of immigration headaches.

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