Governor, Senator Casey want answers on unaccompanied migrant children in PA

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined U.S. Senator Bob Casey in a joint letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar requesting answers to questions regarding the number of migrant children separated from their families at the southern border who are now housed in Pennsylvania.

The questions were first posed at a recent meeting between Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and the Acting Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families. The meeting was an effort to seek information on how the Trump administration’s actions separating children from their families impacts Pennsylvania.

“Our main priority as statewide officials is ensuring the safety and well-being of all Pennsylvanians, including those residing in our great commonwealth even for a short period of time,” according to the letter. “We are very concerned about vulnerable children, for whom the trauma of being separated from their families will have a short and long-term adverse impact on their mental health and well-being. Accordingly, we reiterate our strong opposition to the practice of detaining families who seek asylum in the United States, especially the practice of separating children from their parents.”

Pennsylvania has statutory oversight of Child Residential and Day Treatment Facilities and oversees the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors’ Program (URMP), which is administered through contracts at the local level and provides services for youth, including custodial foster care and group home placement, case management services, supervised semi-independent living, medical, and cash assistance.

Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey asked specific questions in the letter, including:

  • How many unaccompanied immigrant minors are currently residing in Pennsylvania?
  • Where are these children currently residing?
  • In addition, please provide a list of all Office of Refugee Resettlement contracted facilities with unaccompanied children (UACs) in Pennsylvania, as well as a description of the vetting and oversight conducted by your department over these facilities.
  • Does the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have plans, both short and long-term, for reuniting these unaccompanied children with their families? If so, what is the specific timeline for reunification?
  • Does HHS know precisely where the parents or guardians of unaccompanied children are currently located?
  • Are there details available for Pennsylvania officials with regard to how the safety and well-being of these children will be protected in the interim?

The letter concludes by advising the administration that both Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey “remain very concerned that the federal government’s recent actions separating children from their parents will cause irreparable harm in the lives of a very vulnerable population.”

Read the full letter