Trump Admin Will Pay for Immigrant Detention by Diverting Millions From Cancer Research, Other Programs

The Department of Health and Human Services is diverting up to $266 million this fiscal year to pay for the detainment of immigrant children, Yahoo News reported.

In a letter to Senator Patty Murray of Washington, HHS Secretary Alex Azar detailed his plan to redistribute money previously used for cancer research, other refugee support programs and Head Start, which provides children from low-income families with education, health and social services.

The funds will be sent to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program, which is overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

"Nearly $80 million of that money will come from other refugee support programs within ORR, which have seen their needs significantly diminished as the Trump administration makes drastic cuts to the annual refugee numbers," Yahoo News reported. "The rest is being taken from other programs, including $16.7 million from Head Start, $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and $13.3 million from the National Cancer Institute. Money is also being diverted from programs dedicated to mental and maternal health, women's shelters and substance abuse."

Immigrant children are housed in a tent encampment at a facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas. The federal government will divert up to $266 million to pay for child detention. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Yahoo News reported that Office of Refugee Resettlement had 13,312 immigrant children in federal custody as of Wednesday, citing figures from the program.

In May 2017, federal authorities were holding 2,400 immigrant children, according to The New York Times. The number of children crossing the border has not increased from numbers recorded in previous years. But the number of minors in custody has increased because of the government's slow rate of release.

"This is not a story about a historically large surge in arrivals," former HHS official Mark Greenberg told Yahoo News. "The story is fundamentally about a significant slowdown in children being released from care."

Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan told The Hill, "The need for additional funds has grown since FY 2011, due to the continual increase of unaccompanied alien children at the border." He said the monetary transfers were "a temporary solution to the sad consequence of a broken immigration system."

Federal facilities are nearing capacity, Yahoo News reported.

Health and Human Services said earlier this month that it would be keeping the tent city in Tornillo, Texas, open. The facility opened in June with a 450-bed capacity. It was scheduled to close in July, but the government has instead expanded its size to 3,800 beds and it will remain open for the rest of the year, CBS News reported.

The government ended its "zero tolerance" policy, which called for the prosecution of all individuals illegally entering the U.S.illegally, resulting in the separation of families, in June. Many immigrant families remain separated, The Hill reported.