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 ShelbyMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November MORE (R-Ala.) and health subcommittee chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer 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 HollenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Democratic candidates are building momentum for a National Climate Bank MORE (D-Md.), wrote.

The letter was also sent to the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (D-Vt.), and health subcommittee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare 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.