TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CUTS SERVICES FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN IN US SHELTERS

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq. 

Would it surprise you that the Trump administration has once again acted to restrict the rights of immigrants?  Probably not. Would it surprise you that in this instance the rights are those of immigrant children, and that the action by the Trump administration has been described as illegal?  Again, unfortunately, probably not, as there appears to be no limit to the reach of the policies of the Trump administration against immigrants. The above comments relate to the decision of the Trump administration to cut educational, recreational, and legal aid services for migrant children being held in US shelters. 

In a May 30 email to child migrant shelters, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advised that “[a]ll federal funds released on or after May 22, 2019 for the care of UACs [unaccompanied alien children] have the following restrictions:  All costs budgeted for recreational or educational activities including personnel associated with these activities are unallowable costs for draw downs”. On June 5, HHS spokesman Mark Weber stated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has begun discontinuing funding for activities that have been deemed “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation”.  The position of the Trump administration is that the huge influx of refugees at the US southern border has created a budget crisis and that only essential programs can be maintained (under the Federal Antideficiency Act).

There are approximately 13,200 migrant children currently being held in US shelters who would be adversely affected by this new policy of the Trump administration.  

This curtailment of services for migrant children by the Trump administration has received strong criticism.  Attorney Carlos Holguin, of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, in Los Angeles, stated, “We’ll see them in court if they go through with it . . . What’s next?  Drinking water? Food? . . . Where are they going to stop?”. Rochelle Garza, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, stated that without the provision of the eliminated services, the migrant children are “going to be sitting in prisonlike conditions”.  Attorney Garza was particularly concerned about the loss of legal aid services – “We’re going to see a lot of kids being brought to court with absolutely no one on their side with no legal representation”. Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona stated, “By eliminating English classes and legal aid that are critical to ensuring children successfully navigate the asylum process, the Trump administration is essentially condemning children to prison and throwing away the key until their imminent deportation”.                     

This new policy of the Trump administration has been criticized not merely based on moral objections, but also because it may be illegal.  Specifically, this restriction of services for migrant children could violate both a Federal court settlement from 1997 (the so-called “Flores settlement”, which outlined the rights migrant children have in the United States) and state licensing laws governing the shelter facilities holding the migrant children.    

Attorney Holguin’s above comment of “What’s next?” reflects the increasing concern of immigration advocacy groups that the Trump administration will continue to issue policies against immigration rights without any restriction.  In this hostile environment, it is essential that immigrants have engaged a skilled immigration litigation attorney to protect their rights. With its many years of successful cases in court, the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates can be just such an attorney for an immigrant being challenged by an adverse policy of the Trump administration.  If you need immigration litigation assistance, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for representation.