Statement from Jonathan Hayes, Acting Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement

“Today, Congressman Deutch mischaracterized data on allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or inappropriate sexual behavior made by minors at care facilities operated by HHS grantees. He even went so far as to level the unfounded assertion that members of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) federal staff were the subjects of sexual abuse allegations. This was totally false. His knowing mischaracterization of the data—and his impugning of the ORR federal staff—was an immoral and indecent insult to all of the career civil servants who are dedicated to ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the children in the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) program. We request that he apologize to these career civil servants for his untoward and unfounded comments.

“The safety of minors is our top concern when administering the UAC program. Most of our care facilities are licensed by the respective state for child care services, and operate under both state and federal oversight. Because ORR care facilities diligently track all allegations of a wide range of sexually inappropriate conduct, ranging from name calling or use of vulgar language to more serious claims, the data given to Congress by our agency reflects allegations much broader than ‘sexual abuse’ (as defined in 34 U.S.C. § 20341 and in ORR regulations at 45 C.F.R. § 411.6), to also include ‘sexual harassment’ (as defined in ORR regulations at 45 C.F.R. § 411.6) and ‘inappropriate sexual behavior’ (a catch-all category for sexual behaviors that do not rise to the level of sexual abuse or sexual harassment).

“The total number of sexual conduct allegations reported to ORR decreased in FY2017 (1,069 total) but otherwise has generally remained relatively stable each year (FY2015: 1,000 total, FY2016: 1,226 total, FY2018 (through July): 1,261 total). The vast majority of the allegations reported to ORR are ‘inappropriate sexual behaviors’ involving solely UACs, and not staff or any other adults. Facilities can often resolve these allegations by, for example, counseling the minors about more appropriate behaviors.

“More serious allegations rising to the level of ‘sexual abuse’ are reported to both ORR and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Of these, the vast majority involve ‘UAC-on-UAC’ allegations, and the distinct minority involve adults. In FY2015, 279 allegations of sexual abuse were reported. Of these, only 8.6% involves allegations of facility-staff-on-minor sexual abuse. These metrics fluctuated in subsequent years but remained relatively consistent. In FY2016, ORR and DOJ received 348 allegations of sexual abuse, and 16.1% involved facility-staff-on-minor allegations; in FY2017, ORR and DOJ received 264 allegations of sexual abuse, and 18.6% involved facility-staff-on-minor allegations; in FY2018 (through July), ORR and DOJ received 412 allegations of sexual abuse, and 11.9% involved facility-staff-on-minor allegations. Thus, the total number of incidents of alleged ‘sexual abuse’ involving facility-staff-on-minor misconduct across a four year period spanning the previous administration and this administration was 178. None of the allegations involved ORR federal staff. These allegations were all fully investigated and remedial action was taken where appropriate.

“Our office takes seriously all allegations of abuse and makes every effort to ensure that every minor in the UAC program is in a safe environment and released to a vetted sponsor.”

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