1,000’s Unaccompanied Illegal Minors and Millions of Dollars Delivered to Texas
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has facilitated the transfer of hundreds of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) to Ellis and Rockwell Counties in Texas. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service, a flood of nearly 10,600 minors has inundated the border in the past two months, shattering the already elevated numbers of the recent years, and overwhelming the U.S. Border Patrol.
Agency reports identify the UAC’s are majority male teenagers from countries other than Mexico. County officials reported they received notice of the transfer late Tuesday, just one day prior to the arrival of the first bus. Though public leaders voiced compassion for the children, many criticized the federal government for failing to provide adequate notice.
The Lakeview Camp and Retreat Center near Waxahachie, the Ellis County facility, is expected to house 500 minors and 200 support staff. The Rockwell County site, Sabine Creek Ranch near Royce City, will accommodate 200 minors and 100 staff. In a public letter, Jaroy Carpenter, Lakeview’s Executive Director, referenced the event as a “youth camp of orphaned children (ages 13-18) from South Central America.”
Sabine Creek Ranch (SCR) original written statement said they had not received a formal request to house the UACs. However, the following day, December 11th, they revised their statement to say they will receive the minors. SCR also praised the leadership of BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (BCFS-EMD), describing the organization as, “people you would really enjoy knowing and working with individually.” With that statement, it begs the question, “What is BCFS?”
BCFS Health and Human Services, (formerly Baptist Child & Family Services), is a Houston-based 501(c)(3), specializing in residential child care service to secure emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Recent financials show a 2015 operating budget of nearly $56.9 million for residential child care, $16.2 million for community-based service, and $119,890.00 for international services. These are astounding numbers, but even more so when compared to the organization’s previous years.
In a 2014 letter to the Secretary of HHS, Senator Chuck Grassley pressed the department for answers regarding the funds provided to BCFS. Grassley requested the department justify the outrages spending per child, and explain the nearly $450,000 salary for the non-profit’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In addition, Grassley wanted answers to the lack of transparency for an organization that receives 95.9% of their revenue from public support. But, BCFS is only one of many recipients of a massive financial windfall from the government’s new children’s program.
With its $3.7 billion budget and recent classification changes by the Obama Administration, the UAC program has created the incentive for illegal immigrants to make the harrowing trip from their homeland to the promise land. Through HHS, the Administration has infused massive amounts of federal funds into organizations like BCFS. As demonstrated by the above example of BCFS, funding for housing and care has burgeoned since 2011. Also, the amended classification rules for a UAC creates a misleading image of kids making a solitary, dangerous journey.
According to program changes, a person younger than 18 years, not traveling with a verified parent or legal guardian, is to be documented as a UAC. For example, a 17-year-old, traveling with a sibling, aunt, grandparent, or unverified parent, is classified as unaccompanied, although program rules require the minor to be housed with the accompanying family member, at a rate of 2 minors per adult. To maintain the 2:1 ratio, the program provides paid attendants. Additionally, if their home country is not Mexico or Canada, the minor may be eligible for refugee status. They are then reclassified from an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) to an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM), at which point they may qualify for lifetime federal benefits.
There is no arguing the U.S. is compassionate and charitable. As so, federal programs should provide aid when events warrant as opposed to creating humanitarian crises. A more thorough consideration of the impact of such programs is crucial. A true humanitarian, and cost effective approach to the migration would be to work with international agencies within the countries of exodus, as opposed to enticing their youth to leave. Enhanced opportunities, education, and safety at home would alleviate the desire to embark on a perilous journey to an unknown future.