Dem senators want hearing on funding for detained migrant children

Dem senators want hearing on funding for detained migrant children
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A group of Senate Democratic appropriators have asked their Republican colleagues to hold a hearing regarding how the Trump administration has been funding the detention of unaccompanied migrant children.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGOP struggles to find backup plan for avoiding debt default GOP balks at White House push for standalone vote on debt ceiling Lawmakers concede they might have to pass a dreaded 'CR' MORE (R-Ala.) and health subcommittee chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP balks at White House push for standalone vote on debt ceiling Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Mo.) first shared with The Hill, the Democrats said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to provide more information about how much money the agency’s Office of Refugee Settlement needs to house separated children.

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“Since April when the Attorney General Sessions announced the family separation policy ... the funding needs of ORR have shifted dramatically. This policy has caused the needless separation of thousands of children from their parents,” the Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE (D-Md.), wrote.

The letter was also sent to the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip Democrats want investigation into cost, legality of Trump's July Fourth event MORE (D-Vt.), and health subcommittee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPolitical 'solutions' to surprise medical billing will make the problem worse On The Money: Labor secretary under fire over Epstein plea deal | Trump defends Acosta as Dems call for ouster | Biden releases tax returns showing steep rise in income | Tech giants to testify at House antitrust hearing Senate sets new voting record with Iran war measure MORE (D-Wash).

Earlier this year, HHS told Congress it was reallocating nearly $200 million in funds from health programs this year to house the increased number of detained migrant children.

Van Hollen in July pressed HHS for more clarity about the funding transfer, but the agency has not responded. Since Republicans control the Senate, the Trump administration has little incentive to provide Democrats with any additional information.

Democratic senators have previously expressed concerns that the need for additional funding for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program has been driven by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which saw the separation of thousands of migrant families at the border earlier this year.

The cost of caring for and housing migrant children has ballooned in recent months, and experts believe the costs will rise further, as HHS has been struggling to keep up.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has defended the transfer as just a small part of the agency’s overall budget. He previously said the cuts will come from across the board, but key priorities such as combating the opioid epidemic and funding mental health priorities will be protected.