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 ShelbyOn The Money: Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming | Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff | China agrees to 3-month freeze of auto tariffs | Dem to seek Deutsche Bank records of Trump's personal finances The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming MORE (R-Ala.) and health subcommittee chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems to reframe gun violence as public health issue Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill The Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington 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 HollenSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Dem senator on Trump-Russia: No evidence yet ‘in terms of criminal collusion’ House Dems talking more about impeaching Trump MORE (D-Md.), wrote.

The letter was also sent to the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyShutdown would affect 800K federal workers, Senate Dems say Oval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Senators dumbfounded by Trump vow to shut down government MORE (D-Vt.), and health subcommittee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayVA chief gave inaccurate information during confirmation on his pro-Confederate ties VA senior adviser forced out amid concerns that he was 'getting paid to sit on his couch': report The Year Ahead: Drug pricing efforts to test bipartisanship 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.