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House panel votes to subpoena U.S. officials over migrant family separations

By Sommer Brokaw
House panel votes to subpoena U.S. officials over migrant family separations
Activists and civic organizations gather for a "Families Belong Together" protest in Los Angeles on July 21, 2018 to oppose separations of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Democrats on the House oversight committee voted Tuesday to issue subpoenas for information related to separations of migrant children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The resolution authorizes committee chair Elijah Cummings to issue subpoenas to Attorney General William P. Barr, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of Health and Human Service Alex Azar to secure records related to the "zero tolerance" policy the Trump administration announced last April.

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The panel voted 25-11 Tuesday to adopt the resolution. Two Republicans, Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Chip Roy of Texas joined Democrats in voting for the resolution.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Republican on the committee, said subpoenas weren't necessary since the agencies are already cooperating.

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HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said nearly 800 pages of documents have been provided at the committee's request and the agency "has communicated regularly and in good faith." However, Cummings said documents they've received were either irrelevant or incomplete.

"I did not make this decision lightly," Cummings said of the resolution. "I believe it is a true national emergency when our own government rips vulnerable children from the arms of their mothers and fathers with no plans to reunite them. That is government-sponsored child abuse."

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The subpoenas related to the separations are among the first authorized since Democrats took control of the House last month, when they vowed to hold the administration accountable for its actions.

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The committee is requesting information including the ages, gender and country of origin of separated children. It also seeks "all locations and facilities in which the separated child has been, and is currently being, detained, and the dates on which the child was in each facility."

The "zero tolerance" policy for unlawful border crossings led to thousands of separations. An audit last month found that thousands more occurred than the nearly 3,000 previously known.

After public outcry, President Donald Trump issued an executive order stipulating that families be detained together as they await immigration proceedings.

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