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 ShelbyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — White House to request emergency coronavirus funds | Trump backs off plan to house virus patients in Alabama | Court sides with Trump in family planning case Trump backs off plan to house coronavirus patients in Alabama after GOP objections On The Money: Republicans expect Trump to pull controversial Fed nominee | Inside Judy Shelton's confirmation hearing | Trump extends emergency declaration at border MORE (R-Ala.) and health subcommittee chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' 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 Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (D-Md.), wrote.

The letter was also sent to the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Pentagon transferring .8 billion to border wall MORE (D-Vt.), and health subcommittee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash Democratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency funding for coronavirus response Democrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule 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.