Officials in the Department of Health and Human Services are looking to reduce the number of temporary and permanent shelters for illegal immigrant children, in the wake of a dramatic drop in illegal immigration at the southwestern U.S. border in the last few months.
An HHS official testified Wednesday at the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Department of Homeland Security refers thousands of children to HHS each year after they are apprehended at the border. In fiscal year 2016, for example, 59,170 kids were referred to HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The high numbers in recent years have necessitated the building of temporary shelters for these children. However, Scott Lloyd, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said the numbers are falling since Trump took office.
"In fact, while referrals during the first quarter of FY 2017 were the highest first quarter referrals in the history of the program, referrals since January have dropped to a five-year low," Lloyd said in his prepared testimony.
"In response to the decreased number of referrals, ORR has been working to reduce shelter capacity by closing the temporary shelters that operated earlier in FY 2017, and we are currently implementing further reductions in permanent shelter capacity," he added. "At this time, we have no temporary facilities open at Department of Defense locations, as the last one closed in February 2017."
That's a dramatic turnaround from the Obama years, when illegal immigration soared and in 2014 became a humanitarian crisis. The numbers fell in 2015, but rose again in 2016, in part because illegal immigrants were hoping to get to the U.S. in time for some kind of perceived improved treatment under President Hillary Clinton, or before President Trump took steps to shut the border.
Total apprehensions of illegal immigrants quickly fell under Trump, which DHS has said is a sign of a drop in attempted illegal border crossings.
By February, Trump's first full month in office, total apprehensions fell to their lowest levels for that month in six years.