Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of shifting more than $200 million from other HHS accounts to pay for the cost of arresting migrants and separating them from their children at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Already HHS has spent at least $40 million in the past two months administering Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policies, and housing costs alone are currently exceeding $1.5 million per day.
As the government has secretly taken tens of millions of dollars from health programs to pay for the consequences of Trump’s draconian border policies, healthcare advocates are up in arms, saying the money was budgeted and allocated for medical research, rural health programs and other priorities.
The ballooning costs have forced Trump’s administration officials to look for sources of funding, and that is why they are shifting more than $200 million from other HHS acounts.
At the same time, the White House is requesting additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but that is expected to antagonize fiscal hawks in Congress who want to appear to be fiscally responsible and budget conscious while campaigning in the midterm elections.
“We have a public health emergency like Ebola, Zika, hurricanes — except this one is man-made,” said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding”We should not be taking discretionary funding away from programs that need it.”
Holubowich said she and her group members believe HHS should request emergency funding also rather than take money from existing (and currently under-funded) HHS health programs.
Frustration over the lack of transparency and the slow pace of family reunifications was a controversial topic during the markup process for a Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill last week. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee unanimously supported penalties for the administration for not giving details of its plans and procedures to reunite the separated families.
“This is not a policy we should be pursuing,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee chairman, criticizing the administration’s plan to split families at the border.
“We have sent letters demanding answers with regards to the costs … and we have received no answers from OMB or from HHS,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), subcommittee ranking member. “The Trump administration is withholding information from the Congress.”
The funding fiasco — and stealing money from other programs that are earmarked for healthcare — is just the latest development in Donald Trump’s ongoing war on immigrants, and on healthcare.