Hispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors

Hispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors
© Greg Nash

The leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called Monday for the top federal official in charge of refugee resettlement to explain the administration's policies on detention of immigrant minors.

In a letter to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd obtained by The Hill, the CHC asked for a meeting with its members “to discuss what ORR is doing to ensure the safety of children in your custody.”

The CHC has met previously to discuss immigration issues with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE's three Homeland Security secretaries, and in September appealed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Lloyd's boss, for information on the housing of undocumented minors.

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In the letter led by CHC Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamGovernors urge Pence to promote mask-wearing Warren top choice for VP for some Black progressives Poll finds Warren most popular Biden VP choice among college students MORE (D-N.M.), the Democrats reference Trump's zero-tolerance policy, which led to over 2,500 children being separated from their parents by federal authorities at the border.

“It has been more than three months since a judge ordered the reunification of these children and over 100 children remain separated from their families. We would like to speak to you about the remaining separated children and the administration's timeline in ensuring timely completion of reunification of these families,” reads the letter.

Despite the zero-tolerance policy being rolled back, the number of unaccompanied minors in federal detention has grown to a record 13,300 over the past few months, according to the letter.

That’s due to a number of factors, including a new administration policy to run fingerprint checks on potential foster families, dissuading undocumented immigrants from participating in the foster program.

“This drastic increase is not due to a surge at the border, but rather ORR creating a bottleneck by slowing the release of children to family members and sponsors in the community,” the CHC wrote in its letter to Lloyd.

Lujan Grisham and her co-signers, Reps. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Hispanic Caucus formally endorses George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Technical difficulties mar several remote House hearings MORE (D-Texas), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? MORE (D-Ariz.), Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins MORE (D-Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Democrats build capital with big primary wins Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (D-N.Y.), also pointed to the cost of housing the undocumented minors, particularly in the Texas facility known as Tornillo.

According to a New York Times report Sunday, hundreds of foreign minors have been transferred to Tornillo, a tent city near El Paso,  often with little warning and traveling overnight.

The CHC legislators said the cost of housing a minor at Tornillo can run $750 per day, and the facility is now housing at least 1,600 minors.

That led HHS to reallocate up to $266 million from other programs, including HIV and cancer research, and to allocate $180 million in discretionary funding to house undocumented minors.

“The reallocation of these funds raises many concerns for our members, who are charged with funding critical health and research programs,” reads the letter.