In a move that makes absolutely no sense, President Donald Trump is threatening to take away legal aid and recreation from undocumented children detained in shelters. According to the New York Times, an estimated 13,200 migrant children will be affected by the loss of the education, activities, and most importantly, legal representation. The Trump Administration said that their reasoning behind restricting benefits is due to cost, but we think it has something to do with the fact that Congress isn’t giving the president money to build the wall.
“The Unaccompanied Children Program is currently operating under a deficiency,” an email by Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department, stated according to the Times. “As a result, all costs budgeted for recreational or educational activities are hereby restricted from drawdown.”
Part of the recreational activities includes outdoor time where the children get to play soccer at least once a day. Playtime is crucial to a child’s growth and social skills. Without recreational activity, depression among them will increase incredibly. The department also wants to do away with English, math, and civics classes, as well as legal help, which is a complete violation of their rights. The majority of the kids have no family, or contacts, and have to represent themselves in court. Legal aides are the only support the children have and their only possibility of having a way out of their dire situation.
“Funding is no excuse for what is happening to children in government care,” Erika Andiola, RAICES Chief Advocacy, said in a statement provided to HipLatina. “Congress has given CBP billions of dollars who’ve spent these funds further militarizing our border. We must never forget: It’s legal to seek asylum at the border. We should be allocating more funds to meet the basic human needs of those seeking shelter here. We can do better, and we will fight to make sure that happens.”
Rochelle Garza, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, told NPR that if the government ultimately does away with these programs, the country will have another devastating issue as they did with the separation of families at the border. Children will not be in a shelter but a prison instead. She added that these shelters still have to comply with the state regulations.
“It’s beyond the pale to threaten to take away the most basic protections [for children],” Neha Desai, director of immigration at the National Center for Youth Law told the Huffington Post. “Once again, this administration is using children as pawns for their broader political goals.”