In a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees dated Tuesday and examined by Bloomberg News, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra notified the lawmakers that his department required the funds to guarantee the safety of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border.
They further need to include costs associated with staffing at shelters for these children, Becerra addressed.
Talking to the outlet, a Biden administration official announced HHS’ costs for housing unaccompanied migrant children had gone up by $1.7 billion as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to precautions the government had to take.
Reps for House and Senate leadership on the Appropriations Committees in both chambers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, nor did HHS.
In his letter, Becerra announced that the pandemic — not the crisis fed by hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants racing to the border month after month — was to blame for the huge cost, claiming that it “placed significant demands” on his agency.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines demand the agency to quarantine children upon accepting them, as well as ensure that emergency intake shelters have proper measures in place to keep those kids apart.
To satisfy this requirement, Becerra explained, his department drastically decreased the number of usable “state-licensed shelter beds.”
The funds were originally allocated to the National Institutes of Health, but Becerra assured lawmakers that the reallocation did “not disrupt or impede planned NIH activities.”
Becerra announced that he consulted with the Office of Management and Budget before reallocating the funds.
The Biden administration’s reversal of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has inspired a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans seeking refuge from the Northern Triangle nations — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that President Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Maintaining that the border was not facing a disaster, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the preceding administration.
The data, though, overwhelmingly reveals that migrants are overwhelming the border because they believe Biden will welcome them with open arms, with over 170,000 illegal crossings a month.