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Azar slams 'outrageous' description of border detention centers as concentration camp
President Trump's top health official on Monday defended the administration's treatment of migrant children at border detention facilities, blasting the use of the term "concentration camps."
"I think some of this verbiage is just really outrageous," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said during an interview Monday on Fox News.
"We've got professional men and women at the Department of Homeland Security who are doing their best to deal with a catastrophic border crisis. It would be more productive to get them funding," Azar said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) last week raised eyebrows when she called the facilities "concentration camps."
The administration has been on the defensive ever since reports emerged of unsanitary and overcrowded conditions at border detention centers, but Trump officials have lately been blaming Democrats for failing to provide adequate funding for the border.
In the interview, Azar said the government is at risk of running out of money to house unaccompanied migrant children unless Congress can pass an emergency funding bill.
He said the immigration system is overwhelmed because of the sheer numbers of people attempting to cross the border.
"We are now functionally full," Azar said. "These are not good conditions for kids to be in."
HHS runs a network of private shelters to house unaccompanied migrant children, which is separate from the border detention facilities. The number of children in the agency's care has spiked as a result of the surge of migrants attempting to cross.
"We are going to run out of money in July. This isn't about politics," Azar said.
At the same time, Azar also defended the conditions at HHS-run facilities.
"These kids are in a safe, secure environment. They get three square meals a day. They get two snacks, they're getting education services, they get recreation when we get funding from Congress, when we're actually funded," Azar said. "We're paying $220-$1200 per day per kid. So these kids are in good, safe, healthy environments."
The administration wants $4.5 billion in emergency spending to address the southern border, including over $3 billion that would go toward increasing shelters and care for unaccompanied migrant children.
Without new funding, Azar warned the agency will not be able to pay staff or grantees starting early next month.