The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reportedly reallocating more than $260 million in funds this year to house the increased number of detained migrant children.
According to a letter from HHS Secretary Alex Azar obtained by Yahoo News, more than $180 million coming from medical-related programs within the department, such as cancer research. The other $80 million is coming from refugee funds that were allocated to help refugees but are not being used.
The planned funding diversions within HHS include:
- $13 million from the National Cancer Institute,
- $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and
- Many millions more from programs within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The HHS report addresses funding issues for the current fiscal year ending at the end of this month. It has become public at a time of great scrutiny of the way the Trump administration has been handling immigrant families. and children.
The New York Times reported last week that the number of detained migrant children in the U.S. has skyrocketed under President Trump, from 2,400 in May 2017 to a record-high 12,800 earlier this month. Data from HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement showed that there are 13,312 migrant children in federal custody as of Wednesday.
Arizona newspapers have also just reported that many shelters used to house separated migrant children will have to be closed because of state law violations. The State of Arizona said that Southwest Key, which operates 13 facilities for separated children, couldn’t provide required information on the protections the migrant children have against dangerous felons while in the organization’s care. As a result, Southwest Key received a notice of intent to revoke the 13 licenses.
There have been many disturbing reports of both health risks and sexual abuse of children in the migrant children shelters that may be closed.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who has represented more than 90 mothers and hundreds of kids over the issue of family separation, posted a tweet expressing his concerns.
“First Trump took children from mothers and fathers, then he placed those children at risk for sexual assault. Every American should be outraged, regardless of your politics.”
First Trump took children from mothers and fathers, then he placed those children at risk for sexual assault. Every American should be outraged, regardless of your politics. #Basta https://t.co/UKl6Y7E9jR
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 20, 2018
Avenatti also made the following comments about the children in custody:
“There are still hundreds of children that remain separated from their mothers and fathers. Especially with the language barrier, most of these kids don’t speak English, they’re in a strange country. What the government needs to do is expedite the reunification of all these kids with their parents,”
Rather than try to help the children in custody, the Trump administration is committed to keeping them incarcerated in conditions that most people consider inhumane. In order to pay for this they are taking money from cancer and other health research.
In the meantime, children are living in unsafe conditions and are subject to abuse. It is time that the American people demand a better solution to the immigration problem than keeping children in jail.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.