August 06, 2018

After Allegations of Child Abuse at Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors, Duckworth Tours Facility Housing Children Separated by Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy

Trump Administration has not been able to reunite all families separated at border in violation of two court-mandated deadlines


[DES PLAINES, IL] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) toured Heartland Alliance’s Casa Guadalupe shelter for children ripped from their families by the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and met with a number of the children housed there. Allegations of physical and emotional abuse at Casa Guadalupe have surfaced over the past few weeks, prompting Duckworth to write Heartland Alliance CEO Evelyn Diaz requesting swift and immediate action to complete its internal investigation and remedy the allegations of abuse experienced by children and she called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the abuse claims at Casa Guadalupe and make its findings public. Duckworth also attempted to visit Casa Guadalupe last month, but HHS refused to allow her on the property at the time.

“It was particularly important for me to visit Casa Guadalupe because of the troubling and disheartening reports of abuse there, and I’m glad I was finally able to speak to these children and hear their stories,” said Duckworth. “It is critical that the HHS Inspector General complete its investigation into these disturbing allegations and that every Heartland Alliance facility provides a care plan for the children they are responsible for, as I have requested. By creating uniform care standards, we can help create a powerful framework for oversight and accountability – improving the safety and security at facilities in Illinois.”

Duckworth tried to visit Casa Guadalupe two weeks ago, but HHS refused to accommodate her request citing bureaucratic challenges. That, along with other examples of apparent stonewalling of Congressional oversight attempts, prompted her to lead a letter with 6 colleagues asking HHS Secretary Alex Azar for details on how his department plans to eliminate obstruction of Congressional oversight visits to shelters housing children who the Trump Administration separated from their parents and have yet to reunite.

“It’s clear we need more transparency and accountability in facilities housing children separated from their families – a cruel, inhumane policy that should never have existed in the first place,” Duckworth continued. “I am not the only Member of Congress who has faced challenges exercising oversight in their home state and I am going to keep working to strengthen government oversight and create comprehensive immigration reform that is just, fair and humane to help ensure another preventable crisis like this never happens again.”

Senator Duckworth has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy since they began separating families, speaking out many times to demand the Trump Administration stop tearing families apart and immediately reunite them. In June, she joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and 32 of their colleagues in introducing the Keep Families Together Act to ensure the end of this inhumane practice. That same month, Duckworth and her colleagues penned a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General demanding an investigation into the treatment of children separated from their parents after allegations of mistreatment and abuse arose.

More recently, she joined U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and 10 colleagues in introducing the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act. The legislation that would immediately reunify all families and establish a permanent system of coordination between agencies and non-governmental organizations to protect detained immigrants with children.