Minnesota DHS Commissioner: Immigrant family separation 'unconscionable'

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper
Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper in her St. Paul office on March 21, 2017.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

The head of Minnesota's Department of Human Services called the separation of migrant children from their detained parents "unconscionable," in a written statement to MPR News Thursday.

Commissioner Emily Piper joined a chorus of other professionals who questioned the impact the separations will have on children.

Her comments came a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration's policy of separating children from their parents who were detained as they tried to get into the U.S. illegally.

The action came after a firestorm of protest from administration opponents and allies, reacting to pictures and sounds of young children traumatized by their separation from their parents at the hands of U.S. authorities.

"These families have experienced extraordinary trauma. From mothers who were breastfeeding and now have no way to feed their babies and toddlers to children faced with such profound adverse childhood experiences or ACES, it is important that reunification efforts, which must begin immediately, include support and services designed to help these families recover."

A holding facility in McAllen, Texas.
People who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP

The state of Minnesota does not have any oversight for what the federal government refers to as "Unaccompanied Alien Children" (UAC), said Katie Bauer, a spokesperson for DHS.

"This is a program that is managed federally and is not part of our refugee resettlement work and we don't have any other knowledge at this time about whether any of the children separated from their parents are or have been in Minnesota."

She said that the International Institute of Minnesota is the only contracted agency for services for Unaccompanied Alien Children in Minnesota. Its territory is Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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