Government cancels classes and legal aid for detained undocumented minors

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Government cancels classes and legal aid for detained undocumented minors Marciano, 2 years old, lies on April 29 on the wall of a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona (USA). EFE / Archive

 Washington – The government ordered this week to cancel or severely restrict English classes, legal services and recreational activities such as soccer for unaccompanied undocumented minors who are detained in federal custody throughout the country, due to fiscal pressures.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which manages centers for minors, confirmed today to Efe that it has begun to withdraw funds for these activities, due to the “tremendous pressure” exerted on its budget by the “drastic increase” in the arrival of undocumented immigrants to the southern border.

“This week, the ORR instructed that funds be reduced or canceled for activities of unaccompanied minors that are not strictly necessary for the protection of life and safety,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services told Efe. -on which ORR depends-, Evelyn Stauffer.

Among the activities that will be dispensed with are “education services, legal and recreational services,” Stauffer said, which includes English classes or mathematics to which children and sports such as football.

“We urgently need more resources to meet the humanitarian needs created by this influx, both to maintain the crucial well-being of children and to increase our capacity,” she said.

The measure could challenge a federal judicial settlement that requires children in federal custody to have access to education and recreation, and HHS has only confirmed it after The Washington Post accessed internal documents on the subject.

“What is next? Take away the running water? Food? Where are they going?” Denounced Carlos Holguín, a lawyer representing undocumented minors in a lawsuit against federal authorities, in statements to the Post.

“We will see them in court,” warned the lawyer.
The US government operates a network of some 168 centers and programs in 23 states to house undocumented minors, mostly Central Americans, who cross the southern border alone and seek asylum in the country, according to HHS.
By law, undocumented minors who arrive can barely spend a maximum of 20 days in detention centers of immigration authorities, and then go to shelters run by the Department of Health.

In them, the ORR “is obliged by law to provide care to all unaccompanied minors in their custody while they advance their cases in the immigration courts and until they are delivered to their appropriate guardians, usually a parent or a close relative”, He remembered that agency to Efe.

This year, more than 40,800 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border and have been in the custody of the ORR, which represents an increase of 57% over last year and has led that agency to warn of a budget crisis.

In May, the government asked Congress for an additional 2,880 million dollars to strengthen the capacity of ORR, and two months earlier, the Health Secretary warned that there were barely “500 beds available” for the new minors who arrived at the centers.

In April, there were around 12,500 minors in federal shelters across the country, where they spend an average of 48 days until a social worker contacts them to release them, according to the Department of Health.

According to the documents obtained by the Post, the Government’s order to cut funds is retroactive to May 22, and includes personnel costs related to those services. (EFEUSA)

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