Citing budget pressures, the Trump administration is canceling English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for unaccompanied minors in federal migrant shelters nationwide, reports the Washington Post. The Office of Refugee Resettlement has begun discontinuing the funding stream for activities deemed “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber. Federal officials have warned Congress they are facing “a dramatic spike” in unaccompanied minors at the southern border and have asked Congress for $2.9 billion in emergency funding to expand shelters and care. The program could run out of money in late June.
Surging migration at the southern border has overwhelmed the immigration system and has been fueling the budget strain at HHS facilities, as the country has been seeing a record number of families and children coming from Mexico. On Wednesday, U.S. authorities said more than 144,000 migrants were taken into custody in May, a 32 percent jump from April and by far the largest one-month arrest total since President Trump took office. Children who arrive with or without a parent accounted for nearly 40 percent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions in May. The move to curtail services for unaccompanied minors could run afoul of a federal court settlement and state-licensing requirements that mandate education and recreation for minors in federal custody. Carlos Holguin, a lawyer who represents minors in a lawsuit that led to a 1997 federal court settlement that sets basic standards of care for children in custody, called the cuts illegal. He said schooling and exercise are “fundamental to the care of youngsters.”