Escobar calls on HHS to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at child migrant facility in El Paso

El Paso News

A tent facility for unaccompanied migrant children is seen inside Fort Bliss, Texas.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Congresswoman Veronica Escobar is calling on the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at a facility for unaccompanied migrant children on Fort Bliss.

An Emergency Intake Site (EIS) for unaccompanied minor migrant children was set up on Fort Bliss earlier this year.

“A contractor inside the HHS facility for children in El Paso acknowledged sexual misconduct occurred. This is unacceptable and indicative of weak oversight that I’ve been concerned about from the onset. 32 of my colleagues joined me in calling on OIG to investigate,” Escobar tweeted. 

In the letter sent to the OIG at HHS, Escobar implores the Department to investigate “any and all contractors, subcontractors, case workers, and service providers who are, or were at one point, present at the Ft. Bliss EIS.”

She writes that this is the latest in a series of critical shortcomings by HHS and that the contractors selected to care for the migrant children on Fort. Bliss.

“Over the course of being operational, Fort. Bliss has seen unaccompanied minors held for weeks and sometimes months without updates on the status of their reunification cases, a lack of mental and emotional health services, and a continued lack of access to clean clothes, underwear, and shoes for minors,” the letter reads. 

Escobar and her staff have been working to engage with the Fort Bliss EIS staff and HHS Secretary Becerra regarding concerns during multiple visits to the facility.

The letter states that “After numerous attempts calling for change over several months, the EIS remains dangerously mismanaged.”

Escobar and the 32 other signatories demand HHS OIG take immediate action to investigate claims of sexual misconduct by Fort Bliss staff toward unaccompanied migrant children, and hold the perpetrators and those who enabled them responsible.

The lawmakers are also asking to be notified if any former Fort Bliss staff under investigation have been transferred to other facilities or Emergency Intake Sites, especially any involved with the care of minors.

To read the letter in full, click here.

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