Trump administration cancels English lessons and legal aid for unaccompanied child migrants

Mission statement of office terminating lessons is to 'maximise potential' of new arrivals to US

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 05 June 2019 12:32 BST
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The Trump administration is cancelling English lessons, legal aid and other vital services for unaccompanied migrant children in US custody.

The office of refugee settlement, a part of the department of health and human services that claims it is designed to new populations “maximise their potential in the US”, said it was stopping services deemed “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety”.

This included “education services, legal services, and recreation”, department spokesman Mark Weber told The Washington Post.

The office of refugee settlement was created in 1980. Its website says its mission is to help “new populations maximise their potential in the United States by linking them to critical resources that assist them in becoming integrated members of American society”.

Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson for the department’s division of administration for children and families, confirmed details of what was being cut. She said federal officials had warned Congress they were facing “a dramatic spike” in unaccompanied minors at the southern border and had asked for $2.9bn in emergency funding to expand shelters and care.

Because of this, the programme could run out of money in late June, and the agency is legally obligated to direct funding to essential services.

“We have a humanitarian crisis at the border brought on by a broken immigration system that is putting tremendous strain on the office of refugee resettlement,” she said.

The revelation comes as Mr Trump is seeking to present a firm stance of immigration as he prepares to defend his presidency in 2020.

Last week, he threatened to impose tariffs of five per cent on Mexico if it did not do more to stop the flow of migrants. The overwhelming majority of those arriving at the US’s southern border have been arriving from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where they are seeing to escape lack of economic opportunities and gang-driven violence.

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More recently, there has been a jump in the number of people leaving Venezuela amid political turmoil and economic meltdown. The situation in the country appears to have been made more difficult by the imposition of US sanctions.

A White House trade advisor and a leading Republican senator said on Wednesday that Mr Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on Mexican goods might not go into affect.

Peter Navarro told CNN the tariffs, due to come into force next week, might not be needed because Washington now had “the Mexicans’ attention” on stemming illegal immigration.

The Post said more than 40,800 unaccompanied children have been placed into US custody after crossing the souther border with Mexico border this year, a 57 per cent increase from last year.

It said an average of 12,500 children and youths were held in federal shelters nationwide in April, according to government data. They stayed an average of 48 days until a case worker could place them with a sponsor, usually a relative.

Helena Olea, a human rights advisor to Alianza Americas, a network of Latin American and Caribbean groups in the US, said the so-called Flores Agreement of 1997 that set set policy for the detention of minors, said the government must provide education and recreational facilities.

“This is also the start of the process of preparing those young people to integrate into the US,” she told The Independent. “By doing this, the Trump administration is saying it does not want those children to be here. It’s going to result in a mental health crisis for the those unaccompanied minors.”

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