House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) subpoenaed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday, compelling the department to turn over data and information about how it deals with “unaccompanied alien children” (UACs) encountered at the U.S.–Mexico border who are found to have gang and criminal ties.
HHS is responsible for detaining and accounting for the care of illegal immigrant children who arrive at the southern border without an adult guardian. Many of these UACs are allowed to enter the United States if they can be placed with a sponsor while they await their immigration proceedings. This sponsor placement process is handled by HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Mr. Jordan said he has been seeking information from the HHS since June, regarding how the department and ORR vet their UAC sponsors and what the department’s protocols are for UACs with ties to criminal activity. To date, Mr. Jordan said the responses he has received have been “woefully inadequate.”
Disappointed with the response thus far, Mr. Jordan announced in a Tuesday letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, that he would now move forward with the records requests through a subpoena.
“For more than six months, the Committee has asked for your cooperation with a series of requests arising from the Committee’s transcribed interview of ORR Director Robin Dunn Marcos. During the interview, Ms. Dunn Marcos was unable to answer many of the Committee’s questions, such as whether ORR has a policy to refer known gang members to the Department of Justice,” Mr. Jordan wrote on Tuesday.
Mr. Jordan further stated Ms. Dunn Marcos did not have requested data regarding how many UAC sponsor applicants her office had rejected, and how many UACs her office had placed with sponsors who are known sex offenders.
“Instead, the HHS attorneys at the interview represented that the Department would provide the Committee with the requested information at a later date,” Mr. Jordan wrote.
Questions for Becerra, HHSThe subpoena now calls for Mr. Becerra to come before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 20 to provide answers on a range of questions regarding UACs.
According to a copy reviewed by NTD News, the subpoena reiterates the question of whether ORR refers encounters with criminally affiliated UACs to the Department of Justice.
The subpoena also asks for HHS data for the number of serious incident reports coming from HHS-funded facilities, disaggregated to show how many of these reports stem from allegations of sexual misconduct, violence, drug use or distribution, or gang activity.
The subpoena also requests HHS disclose how many UAC sponsors have been rejected because the sponsor had a prior conviction for murder, child abuse or neglect, or conviction related to the possession or distribution of sexually exploitative materials involving children. In the inverse, the subpoena also calls on HHS to reveal how many UAC sponsor applications have been approved despite these specified types of convictions, and the number of UACs that ORR has been unable to contact after being released to a sponsor.
Mr. Jordan’s subpoena also asks for data detailing how often DNA tests are used to verify a UAC sponsor’s claimed familial relationship to the UAC.
Family Suing HHS After Murder Involving UAC SuspectMr. Jordan’s subpoena to HHS comes just days after the family of Kayla Hamilton—a woman authorities believe was killed in 2022 by a minor illegal alien with ties to the El Salvadoran MS-13 street gang—announced plans to sue HHS and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging negligence by the government departments.
According to the lawsuit, the murder suspect was detained while trying to cross the U.S. southern border but was later permitted to enter the United States through what the family alleges were acts of negligence or recklessness in their processes for dealing with minor illegal immigrants they encounter at the southern border.
The lawsuit alleges DHS employees failed to take several precautions when they first encountered the murder suspect at the U.S. southern border, including checking him for gang-related tattoos or contacting the government of El Salvador to confirm whether he had gang affiliations. The lawsuit further alleges wrongdoing by HHS, claiming department officials placed Ms. Hamilton’s murder suspect with a non-verified UAC sponsor who was not a family member of the suspect.
The lawsuit alleges the individual suspected of murdering Ms. Hamilton ran away from his sponsor and ended up in Aberdeen, Maryland, where he rented a room with Ms. Hamilton from a landlord the lawsuit alleges is also an illegal immigrant.
Ms. Hamilton’s mother, Tammy Nobles, has previously testified before Congress about her daughter’s murder, in May and again last week.