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Watchdog group seeks answers

A watchdog organization wants Front Royal resident E. Scott Lloyd,  director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, to address the state of detention facilities holding immigrant children.

Lloyd was appointed in March 2017 as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that holds custody over undocumented immigrant children while their parents await trial.

Equity Forward, a New York City-based nonprofit watchdog organization, has run five full-page ads in the Northern Virginia Daily since June encouraging Lloyd to address the state of the detention facilities.

The latest ad, appearing in the Thursday’s newspaper, shows a close-up image of Lloyd’s face and asks: “Have you seen this man?”

The ad goes on to state that “Front Royal’s Scott Lloyd is at the center of the family separation crisis. Rather than show his face and answer questions about allegations of abuse at detention facilities, Scott Lloyd has chosen to hide. The public deserves answers. Families torn apart by this catastrophe deserve better.”

Jennifer Miller, Equity Forward communications director, said over the phone that the group is essentially a pro-choice organization that works to hold those “opposed to the full range of reproductive health care choice accountable.” The group focuses on employees of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

When asked how Lloyd’s role as ORR director falls in line with that goal, Miller noted that he came to prominence in 2017 by attempting to block a juvenile in ORR custody from having an abortion.

She added that Lloyd has also instituted a policy that requires him to sign off for women in detention facilities to have abortions.

Equity Foward has documented a list of Lloyd’s actions that they feel illustrate his anti-abortion views at www.equityfwd.org.

Miller added that Equity Forward launched in January 2018, so the family separation issue does not necessarily branch out from its base causes.

Although she said the detention facilities issue “might not be squarely in our wheelhouse,” the organization’s goal is to hold reproductive health care opponents accountable. 

“And Scott Lloyd is in this position of power, and he’s using really his power and authority to restrict access to abortion,” she said.

According to Equity Foward’s website, Executive Director Mary Alice Carter’s former employers include Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Physicians for Reproductive Health, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, and NARAL Pro-Choice New York.

Carter said the ads were run in Lloyd’s hometown newspaper because he is “in the middle of this incredible crises” involving the detention of immigrants at the southern border and “we haven’t heard from him.” 

She said hopefully the ads were seen by Lloyd and citizens “who can influence their congress people.”

Although the policy to separate children from their parents did not originate within the Health and Human Services Department, Carter said: “they are the caretakers.” 

“We’re not holding him at fault for the policy…but we are asking very clearly for folks at HHS, including Scott Lloyd, to account for what is happening at those agencies,” she said.

Specific questions Carter said that need answering include where the children are being held and when they will be reunited with their parents. She added that Equity Foward would like Lloyd to address his role in families being separated.

“What we’re concerned about is there hasn’t been a lot of transparency of someone coming forward representing the agency to answer all of these questions,” Carter said.

“font-weight: 400;”>She added that Lloyd needs to state how he is handling reports of abuse in ORR facilities, such as recent allegations of mistreatment at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton. Some of those allegations date back to 2015, before Lloyd’s appointment. An Aug. 13 report from the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice report found no “immediate concerns regarding the health and safety of the residents” at that facility.

Lloyd addressed the allegations last week in a Washington Post letter to the editor before that report was made public.

In that letter to the editor, he states that the allegations “were unfounded” and the center is “routinely monitored for compliance.” He noted that standards of care expected “for your kids and mine” mirror those expected for children in the ORR’s care.

He added that all abuse allegations at all ORR facilities are taken with “the utmost seriousness” and “any assertion to the contrary is misguided and inaccurate.”

Miller said it was “cowardly” for Lloyd to “write a pretty cold and unfeeling letter to the editor in the face of the allegations.” She said a proper response would have been a news conference or testifying before Congress.

Several attempts to reach Lloyd for comment were unsuccessful.

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