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 ShelbyHow the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-Ala.) and health subcommittee chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean Blunt‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration The border deal: What made it in, what got left out 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 HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (D-Md.), wrote.

The letter was also sent to the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph Leahy‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (D-Vt.), and health subcommittee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill 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.