HOUSTON, Texas–While the Obama Administration has largely expressed surprise at the sharp increase in illegal immigrants from Central America this year, the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget for processing unaccompanied foreign minors has exploded in recent years, raising questions about whether the administration could have foreseen, or did foresee, the crisis.
After being apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, many illegal immigrants are then put into the custody of HHS where they receive a myriad of taxpayer-subsidized benefits including housing, food, vocational training, education, and even legal counsel.
HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is responsible for administering payments for such services.
According to federal data, about $168 million was spent on benefits for unaccompanied alien children (UACs) in fiscal year (FY) 2012. Each subsequent year, that figure increased substantially. $376 million was spent in FY 2013 and then almost double that amount, $868 million, was spent in FY 2014.
Shelley Kais–a Congressional candidate in Arizona, CEO of Kais eSystems, and certified government financial manager–told Breitbart Texas that the spike in funding between FY 2012 and FY 2013 shows that the federal government was probably aware that border crisis was forthcoming. She pointed out that federal agencies begin putting together proposals for FY budgets over a year before they are actually enacted.
The FY enacted budget for 2013, for instance, begins in October 2012. Prior to this, the president sent his proposed FY 2013 budget to Congress in February 2012, as he is required to do by law. Even before that, agencies sent in their FY 2013 budgets–which can take several months to plan–to the Office of Management and Budget in September 2011, according to Kais.
“So up to 18 months before the FY 2013 budget was enacted, someone in the ORR office said, ‘It looks like we’re seeing an uptick in children coming from Central America, so we need more funding,'” Kais said. “In the summer of 2011–or earlier–somebody knew about [the border crisis].”
A 2014 HHS budget outline acknowledged the uptick in UACs over the last several years. It said, “From FY 2005 through FY 2011, the UAC program served between 7,000 to 8,000 children annually with an average length of stay in the program of 75 days. In FY 2012, however, the number of children entering the program began to increase, and by the end of the fiscal year, ORR served approximately 14,000 UAC. In FY 2013, the number of UAC served was almost 25,000, and as of January 2014, the FY 2014 estimate for UAC is approximately 60,000. The majority of children are fleeing from violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador with the goal of reuniting with parents or other family members already living in the United States.”
The crisis “should not be a surprise,” Kais said. “People don’t always have access to this data, but remember that there are 535 Congressmen sitting on the Hill that have approved this. They approved the 2012, 2013, and 2014 budgets. Why didn’t Congress ask, ‘Why are you requesting much more money than you previously did?'”
Breitbart Texas reported last week that the border crisis is draining federal resources. President Obama has requested an additional $3.7 billion to deal with the situation. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reportedly asserted that if the funds are not allocated, “we will have to go to a harsh form of reprogramming that will take money away from some vital homeland security programs I am sure members of this committee care a lot about.”
HHS would receive the largest chunk of the proposed funds, $1.8 billion, to fund more amenities for the newly arrived illegal immigrants. Only $433 million would go to Customs and Border Protection, which is in charge of securing the border, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Follow Kristin Tate @KristinBTate.