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HHS: Influx of Unaccompanied Minors Could Strain Funds

As a growing group of unaccompanied minors from Central America are apprehended illegally entering the U.S. at the border, the Department of Health and Human Services is warning Congress that it might not have enough money to house them all, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The AP reports that in a letter to member of the House Appropriations Committee, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell warns that the agency could face a shortfall in funding — even with the president’s requested increases — that could lead to “the situation we faced in [2014] when children were left at the border for unacceptable periods of time.”

In the first two months of this fiscal year, October and November — 10,588 unaccompanied minors, largely from Central America, were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. The influx represented a 106 percent increase over the same timeframe last year.

Unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries who are apprehended are required to be turned over the HHS within 72 hours of their apprehension. The agency is then responsible for caring for the children and placing them with a relative or sponsor in the U.S. to await immigration proceedings.

HHS spokesman Mark Weber told the AP that Burwell is not demanding more funding beyond the president’s request but is working with Congress to “make sure that we’re prepared.”

The AP notes that the current influx has already forced the administration to open two new facilities to house migrants in Texas in California.

Burwell, according to the AP, said in her letter that “it’s impossible to know whether these trends will continue.” Still, as the AP notes, the levels are reminiscent of the high influx that lead to a “humanitarian crisis” at the border last year.

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