The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is stripping $167 million from health programs for American taxpayers to pay for housing the flood of children illegally crossing the southern border.
The department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is overwhelmed with dealing with the surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) crossing America’s border with Mexico. During the last month alone, an average of 255 UACs per day were placed in the custody of the ORR after being processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, according to the Center for Immigration Studies Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughn. To pay for the costs associated with housing youths, HHS is asking for an additional one or two billion dollars above and beyond the $1.2 billion spent in FY 2016 and the proposed FY 2017 budgets.
For now, the department is making drastic cuts to health services for American citizens. Outgoing HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell has directed that $167 million be cut from other programs to cover the costs of services for illegal immigrant minors through December 9 when the current continuing resolution expires, Vaughn wrote.
Barbara Clark of the HHS legislative liaison office notified Congress in a November 28 email addressing the issue.
Daily referrals of unaccompanied children averaged 247 over the last seven days, and 255 so far in November. For comparison, referrals averaged 185 per day in November of FY 2016 and 64 per day in November of FY 2015. As of November 27, 2016, the number of children in ORR care is approximately 11,200.
A second email detailed the diversion of funds authorized by Congress for health programs. The re-directs were authorized by Secretary Burwell and will be used to “pay for immigrant shelters, health care, schooling, recreation, and other services for the new illegal arrivals,” Vaughn reported.
Clark detailed the reallocation of expenditures:
In FY 2016, 59,200 unaccompanied children (UC) were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), 25,000 more than in FY 2015. ORR has experienced consistent month over month growth in the number of referrals of nearly nine percent since June 2016. As a result, ORR is currently funding more shelter capacity and has more children in care than ever before in the history of the program. …
During the first month of the new Fiscal Year, the trend experienced last fiscal year has continued. In October, 7,420 unaccompanied children were referred to ORR’s care, the third highest referral month in the program’s history. Last month, ORR served more children, with a higher number of shelter beds in operation, than ever before. The total number of children in care is nearly double what it was a year ago – an average of 10,154 in October of FY 2017 versus 5,823 in October of FY 2016.
Vaughn reported Secretary Burwell is making cuts to a variety of appropriations authorized by Congress for her department. “That means that in order to provide services to the illegal alien youths, money is being taken from other vital health and welfare programs,” she wrote.
Those cuts include:
- $14 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration, including $4.5 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and $2 million from the Maternal and Child Health program;
- $14 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for contagious disease prevention and treatment and other critical public health programs;
- $72 million from the National Institutes of Health, for research on cancer, diabetes, drug abuse, mental health, infectious diseases and much more;
- $8 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for treatment and prevention programs;
- $8 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services;
- $39 million from the Children and Families Services Program;
- $4 million from the Aging and Disability Services Programs;
- $3 million from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, including more than $1 million from the Pandemic Influenza and BioShield Fund.
The email from Clark continues:
The budget outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year is even more serious. The FY 2017 House and Senate Labor-HHS appropriations bills propose flat funding for FY 2017, which leaves the program significantly underfunded. Based on the information we have and the trends we are experiencing, flat funding for ORR this year will make it impossible to meet our statutory responsibility to provide shelter and care for the children that are referred to ORR. We now calculate that the program will need between $1 billion and $2 billion over FY 2016 levels, depending on the number of children that arrive.
In brief, funds are needed to ensure that ORR can continue to provide shelter to unaccompanied children referred by DHS and other law enforcement agencies throughout FY 2017. With ORR’s balances depleted, and having exhausted the additional funding available through the full exercise of the Secretary’s transfer authority, ORR is not able to meet our legal and humanitarian obligations to shelter these children. HHS cannot continue to provide the services we are statutorily bound to provide and avoid a scenario where children are potentially stranded at the border without additional funding from the Congress.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
President-Elect Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he will appoint Georgia Representative Tom Price to replace Burwell as HHS Secretary, Breitbart News reported. After being confirmed by the Senate, the new HHS Secretary will have to deal with this issue while also managing the next president’s goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Vaughn reported that many of the UACs are smuggled to the U.S. from Central America by Mexican cartels.
“Instead of funding ORR to essentially complete the job of the human smugglers who were paid by the parents of the youths to bring them to the United States in the expectation that they would be allowed to stay with their families,” Vaughn wrote, “Congress should instead direct funding to the Border Patrol for temporary shelters from which the youths and their families can be swiftly returned to their home countries.”