During a time when new COVID variants are causing a surge of cases and deaths in the United States, the Biden administration has announced plans to reallocate $860 million worth of COVID funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to other agencies within Health and Human Services (HHS) as a way to house illegal immigrant children, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg News.
In the letter, which was sent to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra says that the cost to house unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) has increased by $1.7 billion as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Becerra added that some of these new funds will be used for COVID-19 testing and quarantining, the bulk will be used to increase the number of beds needed to accommodate the still-growing flood of illegal aliens flocking across the southern border due to President Biden’s policies.
The number of migrant minors in HHS care has skyrocketed from an average of 4,020 in January to 20,332 in May. Though HHS has attempted to keep up with this surge by opening up new migrant detention facilities, many of these new facilities are currently operating at more than twice their recommended maximum capacity.
While the Biden administration has no problem spending money to house illegal immigrant minors ($60 million a week) that are in this country as a direct result of his administration’s failed immigration policies, they refuse to boost border security or reinstate other proven policies that would solve the crisis. On the contrary, House Democrats plan on cutting spending to both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for FY 2022.
These proposed funding reductions would only burden our immigration system as UAM border encounters continue to reach historic levels. So far in FY 2021 there have been 79,948 UAM border encounters, already more than any yearly total since CBP started tracking encounters back in 2009, with the exception of 2019 (but will likely surpass 2019 as well after the June numbers are reported).
This surge is a direct result of President Biden ending or scaling back numerous effective immigration enforcement measures, including Title 42 expulsions for migrant minors. Title 42, a public health order implemented by the Trump administration to help stem the tide of COVID-19 in the country, allows Border Patrol to quickly expel migrants back to either their last country of transit or home country. Given that the number of COVID-19 cases has spiked in migrant detention facilities and is once again increasing throughout the U.S., it would seem all the more necessary that this policy be reinstated for migrant minors.
To make matters worse, the Biden administration is in the process of ending all Title 42 expulsions, making it nearly impossible for CBP to stop the flow of migrants at the Southwest border. This move will only exacerbate an already out of control border crisis that has reached levels not seen in two decades.
Instead of taking $860 million away from COVID-19 relief to house illegal immigrant children, President Biden should end the surge of UAMs at the border by reinstituting vital immigration policies that worked under the Trump administration, including all Title 42 expulsions. This will free up resources for the administration to help Americans recover from the pandemic.