Program cuts for unaccompanied immigrant children could violate settlement, lawyer says
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Updated: Unaccompanied immigrant children living in U.S. shelters will no longer receive English instruction, legal aid and recreational programs that had been funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the cuts to the Washington Post. Funding is being eliminated, said spokesman Mark Weber, for activities that are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”
The funding cuts come amid budget pressures caused by a dramatic spike in unaccompanied minors at the southern border. Funding could run out in late June, forcing officials to fund only essential programs, Weber said.
The number of unaccompanied children placed in the custody of the HHS after crossing the border this year has increased 57% from last year.
ABA President Bob Carlson issued a statement last week calling the situation “unacceptable.”
“The American Bar Association is deeply disturbed by reports that hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the United States are being held by the U.S. Border Patrol in violation of the law and federal policies,” Carlson’s statement said.
On June 7, Carlson issued another statement.
“The ABA developed and adopted a comprehensive set of standards that should govern the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children, including when they are in U.S. government custody,” he wrote. “The ABA Standards for the Custody, Placement and Care; Legal Representation; and Adjudication of Unaccompanied Alien Children in the United States provides unaccompanied children the right to legal representation and legal information, such as know-your-rights presentations, and also specifically includes a right to education and recreational activities.”
Lawyer Carlos Holguín of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Los Angeles told the Washington Post that the changes could violate a settlement that set standards of care for detained immigrant children. Holguín helped lead the litigation.
“We’ll see them in court if they go through with it,” Holguín told the Washington Post. “What’s next? Drinking water? Food? … Where are they going to stop?”
Updated June 7 to add President Bob Carlson’s statement.