The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced budget cuts for the care of unaccompanied undocumented minors held in federal custody throughout the country.
According to the program that provides support to those seeking asylum in the United States, the humanitarian crisis on the Southern border has created enormous fiscal pressures that have resulted in restricting or eliminating budget allocations for activities inherent to its objective.
This budget cut removed from the calendar of activities: English classes, legal assistance and recreational activities, benefits that the children in the custody of the U.S. government will be deprived of.
Evelyn Stauffer, spokeswoman of the program designed by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), confirmed that the money for the development of its mission has decreased drastically and justified the abrupt cut, to the increase in the arrival of undocumented immigrants on the Southern border.
“This week, ORR instructed grantees to begin scaling back or discontinuing awards for (unaccompanied minors) activities that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety,” the official said
For the past 24 hours, children in state custody will only be kept alive. In general, they will not have access to education, will not have free and specialized legal representation, and will not enjoy recreational activities.
Some critics of the measure have indicated that with this decision, the children’s shelters will resemble more an old concentration camp, in which they only will have food and access to health.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement spokeswoman urged in statements to the press that more resources are needed “to meet the humanitarian needs created by this influx, to both sustain critical child welfare and release operations and increase capacity.”
The first to bring the data on this problem that affects a large number of children trapped in the United States legal immigration bottleneck was The Washington Post, which explained how the measure could challenge a federal judicial settlement requiring children in federal custody to have access to education and recreation.
The U.S. government has a network of some 168 centers and programs in 23 states to host undocumented children, mostly Central Americans, who cross the southern border alone and seek asylum in the country, according to HHS data.
Legally, undocumented minors who arrive can barely spend a maximum of 20 days in immigration authorities’ detention centers. Then they must move on to shelters run by the Department of Health.
In them, ORR “is required by law to provide care to all unaccompanied minors in its custody while their cases advance in immigration courts and until they are turned over to their appropriate guardians, usually a parent or a close relative,” the agency told Efe.
This year, more than 40,800 unaccompanied minors crossed the border and were placed in the ORR custody, an increase of 57% over last year and has led that agency to warn of a budget crisis.
Translated by: José Espinoza