WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) led 59 House Democrats in sending a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell expressing concern over the lack of adequate protection against discrimination and sexual assault for unaccompanied minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The lawmakers urge HHS to implement robust Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations alongside guidance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from discrimination.
“The unaccompanied minors seeking shelter here risked life and limb to escape violence and poverty in Central America,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Too often, they find themselves exposed to new threats of discrimination and sexual assault once they’re here. These attacks are completely preventable with adequate protections, and HHS has the moral responsibility to ensure those precautions are in place.”
The letter, which particularly focuses on LGBT youths, reads in part:
“We’re talking about protecting kids who are being specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Grijalva continued. “LGBT youths must receive affirming and culturally competent care. They deserve the dignity of housing assignments consistent with their gender identity, and adequate preventative and response measures to keep them safe from harm. These kids have traveled thousands of miles in search of safety – allowing them to be victimized once they’re in U.S. custody is completely unacceptable. I urge Secretary Burwell to take the steps necessary to keep these kids safe.”
The full text of Rep. Grijalva’s letter can be found here.