Trump Admin Taking HIV Funding for Increase in Immigrant Family Separations

Documents reveal the Office of Refugee Resettlement is working under the assumption that family separations will continue.

The Trump administration is planning to cover the financial burden for an increase in immigrant family separations and detentions by taking funds from programs to aide those living with HIV/AIDS and refugees.

According to a internal documents obtained by Slate, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is preparing for the possibility that it could need 25,400 beds for immigrant minors by the end of the year.

That would mean a budget shortfall of $585 million for ORR in fiscal year 2018, ending September 30. That shortfall would then increase to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, and add up to a total of $1.9 billion for the period between October 1, 2017 and the end of 2018.

ACT UP protest NYC
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According to the documents, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the ORR, will seek supplemental appropriations from Congress. But it won’t stop there.

HHS also plans to make up for the ORR budget shortfall by taking funding from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which provides medical care and support services for those living with HIV/AIDS who do not have health insurance, or are under-insured. According to the documents, the process of transferring those funds has already begun.

Additionally, HHS is looking to reallocate $79 million from programs for refugee resettlement, “a move that could imperil social services, medical assistance, and English language instructions for refugees in the U.S., as well as programs for torture survivors,” Slate notes.

While the documents do not deal with a federal judge’s ruling ordering the administration to reunify separated parents and children, they do reference Trump’s executive order purporting to end those separations.

The documents reveal that ORR does not believe the order has ended family separations. Instead, ORR appears to be operating under the belief that it merely created a 20-day pause on family separations, and that referrals would increase starting this week.

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The ambiguity of the order’s language creates room for multiple interpretations, making ORR’s reading of it plausible.

Bob Carey, who served as director of ORR under former President Barack Obama, said the agency is “muddying” its mission.

“ORR shelters were not established to care for children on a long-term basis. They were set to keep kids for as short a period of time as possible until the child could be released to a parent or other sponsor. Clearly [the agency] is creeping away from that,” he said.

The Trump administration has taken aim at HIV/AIDS funding in the past, including proposing a budget that would make massive cuts to HIV/AIDS funded research.

The president also fired the remaining members of his HIV/AIDS advisory council after several members quit in protest.

Bill Gates recently revealed that Trump asked him on two separate occasions if there was a difference between HIV and HPV.

“The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is one of our nation’s premier public health efforts, and it is unthinkable that the Trump-Pence administration would divert funds away from HIV treatment to fund its cruel attacks on kids and families at the border,” the Human Rights Campaign wrote on Twitter.

Journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose work has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and more.