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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

June 17, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to request information on your Administration's plans to address the growing humanitarian crisis at our nation's Southwest border. We are extremely troubled by the unprecedented flood of unaccompanied children coming into the United States and are gravely concerned with your Administration's apparent disregard of the severity of this problem and refusal to address the true causes of these illegal crossings.

Since 2011, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border into the United States is on a trajectory to increase 2,000 percent. Next fiscal year, more than 145,000 children are expected by your Administration's latest projections. Yet, your Administration did not request any increase in funding for any of the agencies responsible for addressing this crisis in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, despite the fact that the Administration was aware of these worsening conditions at the time. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency mandated by law to care for these children after they have crossed the border, projects a need of $1.3 billion more than your Administration requested for FY2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is diverting resources that would otherwise be spent protecting our borders and conducting immigration enforcement operations to process and care for these children until HHS takes custody of them as mandated by law. The Administration acknowledged that even those diverted resources are not enough for DHS to process the children, and will need $166 million above the FY2015 request. But regardless of funding levels, increased spending, by itself, is not a long term solution.

It is clear that your Administration has exacerbated this humanitarian crisis with its open border policies and refusal to enforce our nation's immigration laws. These children are incentivized to endure dangerous treks from Central America, through Mexico, and across the border, often in the hands of smugglers. The Administration's new Unified Coordination Group is unable to consider strategic solutions to address the root cause of the problem and has essentially converted our military bases into subsidized daycare centers. Knowing this, your Administration still refuses to face the growing problem.

Given the growing urgency of this situation, please provide responses to the following questions and concerns:

1. Please provide specific information on what the Administration is doing to stem the flow of unaccompanied children and family units.

2. What specific checks are done on the parents, guardians, or other sponsors who take custody of these children in the United States? Specifically, do those checks include legal status checks? If not, why not?

3. How many children are placed respectively with parents, guardians, other family members, or other sponsors? How are family relationships verified?

4. Please provide a detailed explanation on the oversight and follow-up steps in place after children are given to the custody of a family member or other sponsor.

5. Why did the FY2015 budget request not include an increase in funding for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program?

6. On October 1, 2013, how many unaccompanied children were estimated to enter the United States in FY2014? As of June 15, 2014, how many are estimated to have entered? Based on that number, is there a new estimate?

7. The UAC program has received over $1 billion for FY2014, including both transfers and reprogrammings into the program due to your Administrations inability to accurately estimate the number of children to be served. Does HHS expect to need additional funding beyond this amount? If so, where will the funding come from and how much will be necessary?

8. How many of the unaccompanied children and family units are required to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after their release? How many actually do so?

9. What is the status of these children while in the U.S. before immigration proceedings? Can children of appropriate age work legally?

10. What is the immigration status of children who give birth while in U.S. custody?

11. For the unaccompanied children who entered in the last three months, when does the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) anticipate they will first appear before an immigration judge? When does DOJ anticipate that a judge will come to a final disposition in their proceedings?

12. For FY2013, please provide a table delineating the dispositions of immigration proceedings involving those who entered the U.S. as juveniles. Please provide a chart of the length of time their cases were on the docket before disposition.

13. For FY2013, please provide the number of cases involving juveniles that were before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the dispositions of those cases.

14. Please provide the number of human smuggling investigations underway by Federal law enforcement agencies, the number of individuals arrested for human smuggling, and the number of investigations actually brought for prosecution in the last three fiscal years. To the extent that these cases are not being brought for prosecution, why not?

This problem is becoming larger by the day. We urge you to address the root causes behind the flood of unaccompanied children and family units placing themselves at the mercy of smugglers and coming across the border. This is a humanitarian crisis that cannot continue to be ignored.

Sincerely,

Jerry Moran
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
Labor, HHS, and Education

Dan Coats
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
Homeland Security

Thad Cochran
Vice Chairman
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
Defense

Richard Shelby
Vice Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee

Lindsey Graham
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
State, Foreign Operations


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