Panel approves subpoena for family separations

Children line up to enter a tent at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children Tuesday Feb. 19 2019 in Homestead Florida

Children line up to enter a tent at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children Tuesday Feb. 19 2019 in Homestead Florida

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday voted in favor of issuing subpoenas against U.S. President Donald Trump's administration for documents related to the president's child separation policy.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said that documents the agencies had turned over were insufficient and didn't answer any of the committee's questions.

The Oversight Committee will vote Tuesday on whether to approve subpoenas to the heads of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

In a statement, Cummings described the policy as tantamount to "government-sponsored child abuse" and said that after months of requests by the panel, "further delay is not an option".

A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services said that the department has "transparently provided 792 pages of documents" related to the committee's requests, and offered a review of an information portal.

The report prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to ask a federal judge this month to order the administration to account for all of the separated children. "You just wanted to be first", Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican of the Oversight Committee accused Cummings.

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"We should not rush to compel documents from the departments, especially when they have sought to comply with your request voluntarily", Jordan wrote.

Two Republicans - Justin Amash of MI and Chip Roy of Texas - voted with Democrats to compel the administration to hand over the documents.

Cummings said the documents already submitted to the committee were vastly incomplete.

The effect of charging parents, though, was that they went into the federal criminal justice system, which has no space for children - so the children were separated and turned over to the federal Health Department.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings called the separations "government-sponsored child abuse", and said the GOP-led House should have done more to pressure the administration over the issue a year ago. "So we must either release both the parents and the children - this is the historic get-out-of-jail-free practice of the previous administration - or the adult and the minor will be separated as a result of prosecuting the adult". The House Judiciary Committee, earlier this month, authorized a subpoena for Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, should he not appear for his public hearing.

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