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Federal government is spending $1 billion to keep immigrant kids detained, new report finds

In just a decade, it has morphed into a billion-dollar industry.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: People demonstrate and call out words of encouragement to detainees held inside the Metropolitan Detention Center after marching to decry Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: People demonstrate and call out words of encouragement to detainees held inside the Metropolitan Detention Center after marching to decry Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The business of detaining immigrant children has skyrocketed over the past decade and become a billion-dollar industry, the Associated Press reports.

According AP’s analysis, Health and Human Services Department (HHS) grants “for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children” went from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. That’s an astounding increase over 10 years.

AP also notes that nearly 12,000 children are currently detained in “nearly 90 facilities in 15 states.”

So, with all of this money going to the organizations housing immigrant children, the question remains: how are they treating the children? In many instances, not well. The AP report cites an extreme example where a shelter in Texas folded due to complaints over poor conditions, despite receiving “more than $72 million in the last fiscal year.” And this is hardly the only case of poor treatment.

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Despite the vast sums of money being funneled to the companies operating these detention facilities, the quality of care for children can be shockingly poor. Previous reporting has exposed that children have been sent to vacant warehouses, and in some situations psychiatric facilities where they endure borderline abusive treatment.

Children in these facilities will likely be waiting a long time before they can be with their families again, as the Trump administration has been notably slow to reunite them. In some instances, parents are faced with paying thousands of dollars just to see their children again.

And the number of children in detention continues to mount. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his “no tolerance” border policy in early April of 2018, the administration has separated as many as 3,000 immigrant children from their parents. Today, the Trump administration admitted that it has only reunited 57 migrant children under 5 with their parents.

Despite all this, the Trump administration maintains that things are going swimmingly. In fact, HHS Secretary Alex Azar boasted this week that the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families is “one of the great acts of American generosity.”

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