If the Trump administration succeeds with its latest attack on immigrants,the Office of Refugee Resettlementwill cut English, math, science and reading classes, along with outdoor activities such as soccer and basketball, for 13,000 minors.
But those activities are not optional: By law, ORR must care for traumatized childrenand support their development, not jail them. The administration’s proposal is cruel, lawless and inconsistent with research on the needs of young people — much of which has been funded by the very same agency that is already starting to eliminate these activities.
I know how critical education and recreation are for traumatized children. For eight years, I was the assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Clinton administration — the Department of Health and Human Services agency that oversees ORR. And in the years following that role, I was the director of the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency, responsible for meeting the needs of children whose families were unable to support their health, education and well-being.
Children need care and protection
I can’t think of any good faith rationale why an agency charged with supporting children would cut the education and outdoor activities that research proves are important to their development. In fact, a big reason ORR cares for unaccompanied children today is that Congress believed it would be more responsive to children than immigration authorities would be.
The majority of children in ORR custody are ages 13-17 and have experienced great trauma in their home countries and often on their journey here. ORR’s treatment of these children upholds the fundamental principle — reflected in international, federal and state laws — that children need special protections that support their development, regardless of their circumstance of arrival.
By Olivia Golden for USA TODAY
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