In 1991, Alex Azar, a former drug industry executive wrote a legal memo in which he argued that juvenile offenders should be jailed until they are middle-aged men and women.
Azar is now Donald Trump’s health secretary and the man who unpassionately proclaimed that the child separation policy was “charity.”
In the memo, obtained by The Guardian, the health secretary wrote that a juvenile offender wasn’t a “salvageable human” just because of their age. Azar then outlined his legal rationale for going against a criminal justice policy that aimed to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.
The memo claims that individuals were no longer “prone to commit acts of violent crime” in their 30’s and should be held until that time. While Azar wrote that black men were most likely to commit violent crimes, he did not explore racial profiling in policing and didn’t address any type of moral implications with his call to arms.
“Special juvenile courts were created in late 19th century with [the] idea that [a] juvenile was a salvageable human who needed treatment rather than punishment in criminal court,” Azar wrote, according to The Guardian. “We see today that that is not the case.”
Azar’s comments shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is the man who was charged with overseeing more than 2,000 children who were ripped away from their parents by the Trump Administration’s child separation policy. He called the separation “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”
Hundreds of those children still remain in custody.
What may be nearly as troubling is Azar’s close ties to SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Both men worked together on the Clinton impeachment campaign. Azar also admitted in a tweet that both men had been close friends for 30 years.
It should be noted that a crime wave swept the United States in the 1990s, creating some of the worst conditions in modern history. Conservative plans at the time called for over policing, mass incarceration, and oftentimes racial profiling.
Azar’s team says his current views are not necessarily reflected in the memo but they wouldn’t further comment on his current set of opinions.
UPDATE FROM AN HHS Spokesperson: Following the publication of this story HHS sent a rebuttal to Hill Reporter:
“The very headline and subtitle of this Guardian story are categorically false. Secretary Azar did not ‘argue’ anything or ‘reject any notion,’ he researched this topic at the instruction of a senior partner more than 27 years ago.
The Guardian’s attempt to connect a decades-old summer research assignment to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program is farcical. The mission of the UAC program is based on child welfare best practices and HHS is required by law to release UAC to appropriate sponsors as expeditiously as possible while maintaining important child welfare standards. To insinuate otherwise is an intentional misrepresentation of fact.
The article further ignores the Washington Post and Poltifact fact checking on additional false claims regarding the Secretary’s comments on the UAC program. Put simply, this article is nothing but a smear attempt.”