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 TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report 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 GrishamHere 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 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 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 CastroLive coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing Ex-Simpsons writer accuses Republicans of 'Sideshow Bob defense' in WaPo op-ed Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing MORE (D-Texas), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDonald Trump Jr. writes about Trump family 'sacrifices' during trip to Arlington National Cemetery: book Overnight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest MORE (D-Ariz.), Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference MORE (D-Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense 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.