Fifty-nine Democrats led by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva have urged Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell to step up protection for unaccompanied immigrant children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

In a letter sent Monday, the Democrats expressed concern about inadequate protection from discrimination and sexual assault of youths, most from Central America, who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this summer and are in shelters awaiting deportation hearings. Congress required HHS to implement protections from the Prison Rape Elimination Act, but the agency has yet to publish regulations, the letter states. The lawmakers said reports continue to emerge of abuse and mistreatment of LGBT youth in facilities that the HHS Office of Refugee and Resettlement contracts with to house the children.

A spokesman for HHS could not be reached immediately by phone or email Monday.


_ Suzanne Gamboa