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Trump drains HIV/AIDS funding

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Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations



The agency is planning to move funds for refugees and HIV/AIDS patients to cover the possible costs.


The Office of Refugee Resettlement is preparing for the possibility of another surge in family separations. Internal documents obtained by Slate show that ORR has modeled a scenario in which the Trump administration’s border policies could require the detention of thousands more immigrant children.


ORR—an agency within the Administration for Children and Families, which is itself a division of the Department of Health and Human Services—was caught off guard by the family separation policy, the documents reveal. In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would henceforth have “zero tolerance” for immigrants who cross the border without authorization. He expanded the policy in May by partnering with the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute immigrants for unlawful border crossing, a misdemeanor. Under zero tolerance, parents are imprisoned, and children are placed in ORR shelters, sometimes far from the border.


There are currently about 11,800 children in ORR’s care. Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has stated that somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 of those children were separated from their parents at the border. The remaining children in ORR custody are unaccompanied minors—children who crossed the border without a parent or guardian.


In the documents obtained by Slate, ORR officials describe the budget implications of a potential surge in immigrant minors over the next three months. The ORR’s budgeting exercise is premised on the possibility that the agency could need as many as 25,400 beds for immigrant minors by the end of the calendar year. The documents do not indicate that ORR officials have specific knowledge that family separations will increase but do show that the agency is preparing for the possibility.


The internal documents estimate that if 25,400 beds are needed, ORR would face a budget shortfall of $585 million for ORR in fiscal year 2018, which ends on Sept. 30. Under this scenario, that shortfall would increase to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, adding up to a total shortfall of $1.9 billion for the period between Oct. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018. The documents stress that these budget estimates represent maximum possible expenditures and that actual expenses may be lower. The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to multiple requests for comment about these figures or anything else relating to the documents.


To help cover these potential costs, the documents say, HHS will seek supplemental appropriations from Congress. The documents also indicate that HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which, according to its website, “provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.” Per the documents, the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds has already begun.


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