Stories

HHS agency removed staff directory ahead of family separation crisis

Office of Refugee Resettlement director Scott Lloyd speaking into a microphone at a hearing with one hand in the air
ORR Director Scott Lloyd. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On October 23, 2017, Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement removed an entire webpage that contained detailed contact information for 22 different staffers, including ORR Director Scott Lloyd, according to a Web Integrity Project investigation and confirmed by HHS.

Why it matters: ORR is the agency that is responsible for caring for the separated migrant children following the implementation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy, which sparked international outrage. Although HHS claims there is no correlation, family separations began as early as October 2017, according to the New York Times — around the time the website was modified.

  • The ORR "About" page now links to a general media contact email instead of linking to the full contact page it had previously listed.

HHS response: Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, told Axios that ORR’s modification was part of an overall update by it’s umbrella agency, the Administration for Children and Families. “Any suggestions that there was a correlation between this action and the ‘zero tolerance’ policy would be totally inaccurate,“ she said.

Yes, but: WPI points out in its report that other ACF offices, including the Office of Community Services, have kept specific contact information for federal staff readily available on their websites.

The bottom line: Whether or not the change was made with family separation in mind, ORR at the very least made its employees less readily accessible to the public and the media.