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 TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll 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 GrishamCapitol Christmas tree lights up Washington Here are 16 places celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year New Mexico releases plan to provide free college to all state residents: report 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 CastroJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Harris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller As Mexico abuses migrants under Trump's orders, where is Congress? MORE (D-Texas), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoOne lawmaker gets engaged, another married around Valentine's Day Stage production 'Americano!' tells the life and struggles of a 'Dreamer' Democratic lawmaker says Trump 'doesn't have full command' on Iran MORE (D-Ariz.), Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Roger Stone gets over three years in prison; Brutal night for Bloomberg Three members of Congress endorse Bloomberg after raucous debate DCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program MORE (D-Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDemocrats ramp up calls for war powers vote after Iran strike Democrats vow court victories won't slow impeachment timeline Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite 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.