SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) seeking information about the Trump Administration’s enactment of the “zero tolerance” border policy separating children from their families. Last week in a Congressional hearing it came to light that Administration officials were made aware—in advance—of the significant trauma and health impacts that family separation would cause to children. Despite this, the Administration proceeded with the “zero tolerance” policy that separated thousands of children from their parents, jeopardized their safety and health, and caused trauma to children and families that will have long-term impacts.
“The Trump Administration owes all of us answers over this cruel and immoral child separation policy. We will not accept the silence of federal officials,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Last week’s Congressional hearing shows that this President and his Administration received warnings about the impacts of the family separation policy and still acted. We must have answers and accountability. We all deserve to know what went into the federal government’s inconceivable decision to separate thousands of children from their families. We need to know why the federal government would stoop so low as to separate families without a plan to reunite them.”
Attorney General Becerra is seeking all records related to HHS, DHS, and USDOJ’s consideration of the effects of the “zero tolerance” policy on children’s mental and physical wellbeing. The Attorney General also seeks to obtain all records relating to HHS’s determination of its ability to care for an influx of detained children. In addition, the request includes the disclosure of records and communications between senior staff at each agency, including former HHS Secretary Tom Price, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry, and U.S. Marshals Services Acting Deputy Director David Anderson.
On June 26, Attorney General Becerra announced that he was co-leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the cruel and unlawful policy of forcibly separating children from their parents without any legitimate justification. The complaint alleges that the Trump Administration’s family separation policy violates the fundamental due process rights of parents to be together with their children, equal protection rights afforded to parents and their children, as well as other constitutional and statutory claims. Last month, Attorney General Becerra submitted 16 declarations supporting the charge that this child separation policy is causing irreparable harm to children, families, and communities in California. The case is ongoing.