The federal government’s plans to open a facility in Washington, DC, that would provide 200 beds and services to Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs), including health care and education, is on ice after Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an emergency rule to prevent the project.
The local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate reported that the rule will be in effect for 120 days and prohibits D.C.’s Child and Family Services Administration from licensing Dynamic Service Solutions, a Maryland-based contractor, which would have operated the facility.
WAMU reported that Bowser and other city officials are opposed to the facility because of the Trump administration policy to separate children from their parents, even though the children that would be housed at the D.C. shelter are without parents.
“The department’s Administration for Children and Families said in a statement that it is legally required to hold unaccompanied children until a sponsor can be found, but critics — including city officials — lambasted the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.” WAMU reported.
BREAKING: The Bowser administration has adopted emergency regulations that would stop a federal shelter for unaccompanied migrant children. Story TK, background here https://t.co/tjxPHGhEOi
— Fenit Nirappil (@FenitN) August 20, 2019
the ACF statement said:
We treat the children in our care with dignity and respect, and deliver services to them in a compassionate and organized manner while we work expeditiously to unify each one with a suitable sponsor. Unfortunately, uninformed individuals continue to perpetuate erroneous and irresponsible stories which only hinder our ability to run this program successfully and unify children with their parents, family member or other suitable sponsor.
“Speaking on Monday, Bowser said her concerns with the shelter stemmed from opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, but also to the city’s experience with housing large numbers of homeless families in the now-shuttered D.C. General shelter,” WAMU reported.
Bowser referred to a child who disappeared from a homeless shelter where children stayed with their parents.
“We know when facilities are too big to support children,” Bowser said. “So we are not going to, after closing D.C. General, turn around and recreate an unsafe shelter for children without their parents.”
Breitbart News reported the huge number of UACs in federal custody: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics show that in fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018) 107,212 unaccompanied alien children were taken into custody.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) website explains the UAC program:
Consistent with federal law, ORR places children while in our care in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child, taking into account potential flight risk and danger to self and others. Presently, all ORR-funded facility services includes: Classroom education, mental and medical health services and recreation.
An ORR fact sheet details the dramatic increase of UACs entering the United States:
ORR has provided care for and found suitable sponsors for almost 390,000 UAC. For the first nine years of the UAC Program at ORR, fewer than 8,000 children were served annually in this program. Since Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011 – September 30, 2012), this number has jumped dramatically, with a total of 13,625 children referred to ORR by the end of FY 2012. The program received 24,668 UAC referrals from DHS in FY 2013, 57,496 referrals in FY 2014, 33,726 referrals in FY 2015, 59,170 in FY 2016, and 40,810 in FY 2017. In FY 2018 49,100 UAC were referred.
The fact sheet also states that approximately 170 facilities and programs in 23 states are funded by ORR.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter