By Bob Dane
A record influx of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) is burning through federal budgets, and will strain state and local services to the breaking point. Last spring, the Biden administration spent $60 million a week to shelter migrant youths. Costs will rise significantly as monthly arrivals are projected to surge this fall.
Some 400 unaccompanied children illegally cross the southern border each day. As summer temperatures begin to dip, the flow is expected to double to 20,000 or more per month.
Amid the crush, the pro-immigration Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is pushing for a full suite of juvenile services, ranging from “social and emotional support,” to legal aid, to specialized education and job training. These “exciting and cutting edge” initiatives would be both “bilingual and bicultural,” naturally.
And the price tag? MPI won’t hazard a guess, but given the sheer number of youngsters involved, the tab would be multiple times higher than $60 million a week. For starters, the House Appropriations Committee has anted up $3,383,467,000 for basic UAC care in Fiscal Year 2022, a 63 percent increase.
That’s a big step up from the no-growth budgets at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services is authorized to “reprogram” money for UACs in Fiscal Year 2022, as was done this year when Cares Act funds intended for Americans were siphoned to assist migrants.
But the House panel’s package doesn’t begin to touch the mounting educational, health care and social service burdens that states and localities will be left to shoulder as tens of thousands of needy young migrants settle in.
In Florida, which has surpassed California as the second-biggest UAC destination, Gov. Ron DeSantis says the influx is “going to affect [state]taxpayers to a huge, huge extent.” Texas, the No. 1 home for unaccompanied minors, has blasted the administration’s handling of children there.
With its expansive agenda, MPI seeks to aid migrant minors, yet comes off as cavalier or uncaring about the fiscal and logistical realities. The White House appears content to simply pass the bill along, without even acknowledging what it costs.
“For school districts with tight budgets, the added costs of educating these young newcomers will mean an end to art classes, band and orchestra and other enrichment activities,” warns Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York.
She recalled that when just 1,622 Central American children landed in New York City in 2014, schools spent $50 million designing specialized programs for them. McCaughey says ongoing tidal waves of children with serious academic deficits and a host of special needs “will cripple many public schools and further set back our own kids, just when they’re struggling to get back on the learning track.”
The wholesale admission of UACs – the largest on record – comes at a cost that is literally incalculable. It is yet another case of the Biden administration’s border fiasco coming home to roost.