Under federal law, unaccompanied migrant children are required to receive a "structured education," Monday through Friday, throughout the entire year. That education must cover basic academic areas, including math, reading or English as a second language, science, social studies, writing and physical education.
But the Trump administration is set to cancel funding for English classes and recreational programs like soccer at all federal migrant shelters, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post that cite budget pressure created by an influx of people streaming into the U.S. from the southern border.
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"As we have said, 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 and its Unaccompanied Alien Children program," a spokesperson for HHS told U.S. News in a statement. "This historical influx is challenging the capacity of the federal government to shelter [unaccompanied alien children] and presents child welfare concerns beyond the treacherous journey that these minor children take across the southern border."
As of March, nearly 12,000 unaccompanied minors were in the care of HHS.
The Trump administration has been adamant that Congress provide $2.9 billion in emergency funding to deal with what the HHS spokesperson characterized as a "dramatic spike" in unaccompanied minors before the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program runs out of money in June.
The administration began diverting millions of dollars from other programs to bolster the program last year.
The HHS spokesperson said the Antideficiency Act gives the administration the right to cancel funding for things like English classes and recreational activities and provide "only those services which are directly linked to the safety of human life" in order to avoid or minimize a deficiency in funding.
As it stands, the federal government awards billions of dollars in government contracts to organizations responsible for educating thousands of detained migrant children.