Scott Lloyd was effectively stopped from managing the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in mid-July, Politico reported Tuesday, after his office struggled to help reunite families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
As ORR director, Lloyd, who has very little experience in refugee resettlement, made decisions that made it more difficult to reunite children with their families, sources told Politico. Not only did the office reportedly not set up a spreadsheet to calculate and follow separated families, but its employees did not obey an order from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to start reviewing families’ case files.
Azar ended up stopping Lloyd, a Trump appointee, from running the office’s day-to-day operations, according to Politico.
Assistant Secretary for Family Support Lynn Johnson is now conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of the agency’s refugee resettlement program, Johnson told Politico. She has not made any personnel decisions, she said, and she complimented Lloyd when asked about him.
“He’s on top of it,” she said. She later added, “I have not locked in with a decision that he needs to be gone at all.”
A spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families — which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement — didn’t immediately reply to a VICE News request for comment. However, an HHS spokesperson told Politico, "We do not conduct performance reviews in the press.”
Lloyd, who took over the Office of Refugee Resettlement in March, started drawing national attention long before the Trump administration started separating families. In October 2017, one undocumented immigrant teenager held in an Office of Refugee Resettlement–operated facility in Texas sued the Trump administration over its refusal to let her have an abortion. Court records later revealed that Lloyd, who has spent much of his career advocating against abortion, required that he personally sign off on any teenager’s request for an abortion. He also received a weekly spreadsheet listing every pregnant teenager in Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, which including information on their fetuses’ gestational age.
A federal judge later issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration from stopping immigrant teenagers in federal custody from getting abortions.
Last week, the Campaign for Accountability asked for an ethics investigation into Lloyd, after the abortion rights-supporting watchdog group uncovered emails showing that Lloyd had forwarded an email from his old employer. An executive order by President Donald Trump forbids presidential appointees from participating in matters involving their former employers in any professional capacity.
The news about Lloyd comes as a so-called caravan of immigrants, mostly people from Honduras fleeing poverty or violence, makes its way to the U.S. border.
About 2,650 children were separated from a parent under the “zero tolerance” policy, and last month the government said it had reunified or released 2,251 of the children.