House Appropriations Committee tackles family separation issue

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday flexed the power of the federal purse to tackle the ongoing issue of migrant children getting separated from their parents at the border, passing a series of provisions to prod more information from the Trump administration on the matter.

The committee approved an amendment from Rep. Rosa DeLauro that would reduce funding for the office of the secretary of Health and Human Services in next year’s spending bill by $100,000 per day starting in August if the administration doesn’t submit a broader family reunification plan to Congress.

“There is no plan. There never was a plan,” said Ms. DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat and the ranking member on the spending subcommittee with jurisdiction over HHS.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS is the division tasked with caring for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children until they can be placed with sponsors.

A broader-based “manager’s amendment” offered by Rep. Tom Cole, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the subcommittee, requires the administration to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the status of the children who have been separated.

It also includes language that allows HHS to accept private donations for the care of unaccompanied alien children in the custody of the federal government, including for items such as medical and school supplies.

The panel also approved a separate amendment from Mr. Cole to allow families to be held in detention facilities longer — language that mirrored a section in a recent GOP immigration bill introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte.

The committee also adopted other Democratic proposals that sought to keep migrant siblings together in the event they’re separated from their parents, and to prevent detained children from being medicated until they’ve been examined by a medical professional.

The proposals were offered as amendments to the 2019 spending bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Health, and Education.

The House spending bill would still have to be reconciled with the Senate version, which passed the appropriations committee last month. That measure does include language directing the administration to provide regular updates on the family separation issue.

The Labor-HHS bill is typically one of the tougher measures to pass, in large part because the House version has included myriad policy “riders” opposed by Democrats on issues ranging from abortion to gun control.

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