Exclusive: With More Immigrant Children in Detention, HHS Cuts Funds for other Programs — Like Cancer Research

The Department of Health and Human Services is diverting millions of dollars in funding from a number of programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, to pay for housing for the growing population of detained immigrant children.

In a letter sent to Sen. Patty Murray, D.-Wash., and obtained by Yahoo News, HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlined his plan to reallocate up to $266 million in funding for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Nearly $80 million of that money will come from other refugee support programs within ORR, which have seen their needs significantly diminished as the Trump administration makes drastic cuts to the annual refugee numbers. The rest is being taken from other programs, including $16.7 million from Head Start, $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and $13.3 million from the National Cancer Institute. Money is also being diverted from programs dedicated to mental and maternal health, women’s shelters and substance abuse.

According to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement obtained by Yahoo News, there were 13,312 immigrant children in federal custody as of Wednesday, Sept. 19, with ORR’s existing facilities at 92 percent capacity.

The latest figures demonstrate the continued growth of this population just one week after the New York Times reported that the number of detained immigrant children in the U.S. has soared to record highs over the last year, from 2,400 children in May of 2017 to 12,800 earlier this month. Last week, HHS confirmed its plan to extend use of an emergency shelter in Tornillo, Texas, for the third time since it opened in June, and expand capacity at the “tent city” from 400 to 3,800 beds. The estimated cost of operating such emergency facilities is $750 per child per day — approximately three times the cost of a regular ORR shelter.

By Caitlin Dickson for YAHOO
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