The Trump administration announced it is “scaling back or discontinuing” all “education services, legal services and recreation” for unaccompanied minors living in U.S. migrant camps.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern continues to rise. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 11,000 kids traveling without a parent were apprehended in May – which accounts for about 40 percent of the overall detainments.
“We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger, the system is broken,” acting U.S. Customs Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders.
Citing this “dramatic spike,” the Department of Health and Human Services has asked Congress for $2.9 billion in emergency funding.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch within the HHS, has already started limiting funds for activities that are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety” of unaccompanied minors in its care.
“Additional resources are urgently required to meet the humanitarian needs created by this influx — to both sustain critical child welfare and release operations and increase capacity,” Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber said in a statement.
There are an estimated 13,000 undocumented migrant children in shelters across the United States. Of those 13,000 kids, nearly 3,200 of them are living in the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, the largest federal camp in America.
“Our top priority at the Homestead emergency care shelter remains the safety and welfare of the children,” said Jim Van Dusen, chief executive of Caliburn International, the private company that runs the Homestead facility. “That is why we will ensure the continuation of our high level of care.”
While federal officials are asking for funds to expand shelters, U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are calling for the closure of the Homestead facility.
“The Homestead child detention facility has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with the Trump Administration. Reports of dangerous and scarring conditions are becoming too common,” Mucarsel-Powell’s statement read, in part. “When I first visited the facility, I was shocked and heartbroken at the prison-like conditions children are being detained in. Sadly, those conditions have only worsened as they continue to cram more children into already-limited spaces.”
A shelter employee told The Washington Post, who broke the story, they’re concerned the quality of care for the children will suffer because of the cutbacks.
“What are you going to do all day?” the shelter employee told the news outlet. “If you’re not going to have any sort of organized recreation or physical activity, what are you going to do, just let them sit in their rooms?”
Mucarsel-Powell echoed the worker’s fears, adding that the Trump administration is “robbing [the unaccompanied minors] of their humanity.”
“What are the children supposed to do? Will soccer balls and crayons now be confiscated? How are these children expected to learn, grow, and function in society?” she told CBS News. “These are children that are going through tremendous suffering.”
Activists are ready to take the battle to court, citing a settlement that mandates education and recreation for minors in federal custody.
“We’ll see them in court if they go through with it,” said lawyer Carlos Holguin. “What’s next? Drinking water? Food? Where are they going to stop?”
William is the Managing Editor at FloridaInsider.com. His years of experience in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia include roles as a Writer and Web Producer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science and Communication.