After Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner John Sanders' resignation went public Tuesday, the migrant crisis at the Southern border took the spotlight once again in American politics. Though all eyes were on the CBP, it is the Health and Human Services branch of government that is responsible for handling unaccompanied alien children, and according to the HHS, it is running out of resources.
"We are running out of money in our program, and we really need to get the money so that we can provide services for these children," Deputy Secretary of the HHS Eric Hargan told Cheddar Tuesday.
A New York Times report on Tuesday, citing lawyers who visited the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, said "some children said they had not been allowed to shower in nearly a month, and were so hungry that it had been hard for them to sleep through the night." According to the Washington Post, officials have confirmed that after moving children out of the station, more than 100 children were returned when officials could not secure bed space elsewhere.
Hargan explained that friction between a Democrat-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate have posed significant barriers to getting funding to provide for children in these facilities
"We really need the resources to be able to care for these children throughout the government and we put forward a plan in May for us to get more appropriations so that we can provide better and more services for these children, both Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, and we really need that to be acted on," Hargan added.
On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she reached a deal with progressives in the House on an emergency border spending package, making changes to the $4.5 billion border funding bill, which includes stricter standards in private detention facilities.
Just last week, Senate appropriators approved $4.59 billion in emergency funding to address the massive influx of migrants. The bill would provide $2.9 billion out of the lump sum for the HHS to care for unaccompanied minors.
"I believe, actually, Congress is dealing with this separately, is the latest that I've heard," Hagran said.
Time could be running out, though, if Congress plans to act before officials leave for their Independence Day recess, which could begin as early as Thursday.
Secretary of the HHS, Alex Azar told reporters at the White House on Monday, "We are full, we do not have capacity for more of these unaccompanied children who comes across the border."
While the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for migrants who illegally cross the U.S. Southern Border, it is the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) who must provide services for unaccompanied children. The ORR operates as a sub-department of the HHS, and provides various services for the minors, including healthcare, access to legal services, education, and family reunification.
But the HHS says it cannot provide a level of care for the migrant children with Congressional assistance only in the form of money, and that it does not stop with appropriations:
"We also need, just fundamentally, fixes to the immigration system legally, so that we can make sure that this system runs better."
He noted: "Really, the difficulties on the border are reflective of a broken immigration system."