Lawmakers are demanding action as the federal government continues to keep immigrant children detained in the Shiloh Treatment Center and other residential facilities owned and operated by Clay Dean Hill that have a shady history. Since 1993, four children have lost their lives after being physically restrained. Others have been sexually abused, physically abused, and forcibly injected with drugs.
A federal judge recently ordered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to remove children from the Shiloh Treatment Center unless they pose “as a risk of harm to self or others.” However, this order has yet to be carried out. “They’re in clear violation of the court’s order,” said Carlos Holguín, general counsel for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law.
“There should be a zero-tolerance policy for any contractor or facility that is found to be mistreating these vulnerable children. That is why I have called on HHS to investigate Shiloh and will continue to press them to do so,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen. He was one of seventeen senators who signed a letter in June sent to Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which detailed known incidences of abuse.
The letter stated, “I urge ORR to investigate these horrific reports and terminate any contracts with facilities found to be engaging in even one inhumane and medically unacceptable practice.”
“I am extremely disturbed by the reports that immigrant children in ORR detention centers are being abused and forced to live in horrific conditions,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat-New York, who organized the letter.
Another letter was signed by 41 Senate Democrats and asked the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the federal program for detained immigrants. A subsequent review was initiated to “identify vulnerabilities in facilities’ efforts to protect children in their care from harm.”
“These disturbing allegations further prove the need for rigorous congressional oversight of facilities where children are being cared for,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrat-Oregon, said, adding this should mean round the clock efforts. “Oversight means seeing children’s conditions as they are on a day-to-day basis, not dog-and-pony shows where facilities have two weeks’ notice to put a happy face on their operations,” he said.
A fact sheet presented by the Administration for Children and Families, the parent agency responsible for detained immigrant children, to concerned lawmakers states, “While there is ongoing litigation regarding Shiloh RTC, it is important to note that all treatment occurs under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist, and UAC that are admitted to Shiloh have performed serious acts such as suicidal attempts, or have engaged in behavior such as biting, spitting, kicking, hitting and throwing objects at peers and staff, and sexually inappropriate behavior.”
Holguín said the office is trying to “blame the children for what’s actually ORR’s own malfeasance.” Regardless of the behaviors being witnessed, lawmakers argue leaving children in these conditions won’t improve them.
“House of horrors” is how Texas Sen. Sylvia Garcia describes Shiloh. The commission “needs to do what it should have done seven years ago and shut Shiloh down,” Garcia, a Houston Democrat, said, adding, “The repeated documented cases of abuse at the hands of Shiloh employees are beyond disturbing and we cannot allow this house of horrors to continue to operate. Just because the State of Texas no longer sends children to Shiloh, it doesn’t mean that State officials aren’t responsible for the children who are dying in this facility.”