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Feds: No More Education, Legal Services For Immigrant Kids

 June 6, 2019 at 10:52 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The money is running out. That's the claim us health and human services is making as it prepares to cut funding for services for unaccompanied minors in federal shelters. The agency notified shelters that it's canceling funding for English classes, recreational programs, and legal aid for the teenage migrants held in custody. The move comes as the number of apprehensions of the illegal border. Crossers has soared in May alone. The border patrol reports more than 144,000 were taken into custody. There are three shelters for unaccompanied minors in San Diego County, including one in lemon grove and another in El Cahone. Joining me via Skype is Washington Post reporter Maria Cicchetti who covers immigration and customs enforcement. Maria, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. The Washington Post obtained an email notifying shelters of the funding cuts. What did it say? The email was from HHS and it said that all costs that are budgeted for recreation or education, including staff associated with those activities are unallowable. Speaker 1: 01:07 So, and that email was sent on May 30th and it was retroactive to May 22nd. So that means that the government won't pay you for those costs. Do we know how many unaccompanied minors are being housed in shelters across the country and where most of them are coming from? So on any given day, shelters could have 12,000 to 13,000 minors and they're coming from the northern triangle countries of Central America. So Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These shelters are supposed to be family friendly, you know, child appropriate places, not jails, uh, not detention centers. They're supposed to be places where kids can be kids while they wait for the government to find them a place to stay in the United States to await the outcome of their court proceedings. And how long do they usually remain in the shelters? So there is an average of about 44 or 48 days, but some spend months there, um, if not longer than that. Speaker 1: 02:04 There are nonprofits that run the shelters generally and there are caseworkers there who try to find the child's parent or Guardian in the United States to place them with them. Isn't the federal government mandated to provide a basic level of services to these young people in detention? Well that's what advocates say that there's a 1997 federal consent decree known as the Flores settlement agreement and that calls for providing that kind of services, education, play time, all the things that kids and teens need in their lives. But what the government is saying is, look, we're running out of money. We told Congress we were running out of money for months and that could happen this month. So they need to provide essential care they say which is food, water, shelter, things like that. I cut the other stuff. Well that's what they say. I mean they say federal bar obligates them to make sure they have funding for those essential services. Speaker 1: 02:58 But advocates, immigrant say that the government is spending a lot of money on enforcement and they should make sure that they have money to treat children. You. Mainly they say, and part of that is making sure that children can play and that they can study, um, and not just be sitting in their rooms are on bunk beds. What reaction have you heard to these cuts from the people who run the shelters? Well, their shelter folks are very concerned. I mean, I'm at least one Bethany Christian services told us in an email that they would continue to provide services because they consider that fundamental. I'm another shelter I talk to today. I'm said similar things, but some shelters really do need this federal funding to provide these services, to pay their staff, to buy new equipment for the kids. So they're worried about it. They feel like education, schooling and just play are really important to children's physical and mental health, but also just keeping things in order at the shelter. Speaker 1: 03:53 Can you tell us more about the surge of arrests at the border? We hear so much about people from Central America seeking amnesty who are waiting in Mexico, who are the people who are crossing illegally. So overwhelmingly now the migrants are families and unaccompanied children. Really Families for the most part, if you take the number of children and families and you add that to the number of unaccompanied minors, those are people traveling without their parents. You can see that 40% of those apprehensions at the border or minors and a lot of them are 12 and under, which is just such an incredible change in the trajectory of migration. And Homeland Security will say, you know, this is a clear smuggling tactic. You know, this is a way to get into the United States. They tell us it was safe way, um, in a cheaper way than it has been in the past. Speaker 1: 04:46 Um, but advocates were, immigrants are saying that people are leaving for important reasons, um, that, and then, you know, the United States keeps focusing on enforcement, but that doesn't change the conditions of Guatemala and other parts of Central America that are so dangerous or poor that they're compelling people to leave. It seems as if the Trump administration and some Democrats in Congress basically agree that more money is needed for the surging numbers of people in detention at the border. Is there any political move to make that happen? There've been negotiations, um, and there's a lot of discussion about it, but it's not clear where that stands. I mean, it's definitely under discussion and you know, a lot of people are concerned. Children have, have died in custody. I mean, everyone on all sides are expressing concern about the safety of children, but they have very different solutions for it. I've been speaking with Washington Post reporter Maria Cicchetti. Maria, thank you very much. Thank you very much. [inaudible].

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Immigrant children in the care of the U.S. government may no longer have access to English-language courses and legal services, officials said Wednesday.
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