The Texas non-profit organization hired to care for the immigrant children who are detained and separated from their parents will be paid almost half a billion dollars this year by the Trump administration, according to Bloomberg’s assessment of government data.
The group, Southwest Key Programs, will be paid more than $458 million in fiscal year 2018. Southwest operates 12 detention facilities in Texas, the largest scope of any non-profit or agency paid with grants by the Department of Health and Human Services to care for the migrant youth, according to Bloomberg.
The federal government intends to spend $943 million already this year to detain and house the children, a number that nearly exceeds what was spent in all of fiscal year 2017, which ended in September — $958 million.
Additionally, an NBC News report found that it costs far more to hold children in these new “tent city” facilities than it would cost if the kids and parents were housed together. The new tent facilities have been thrown together in reaction to the significant uptick in the number of children who have been separated from their parents in recent weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new “zero tolerance” border crossing policy was instated.
According to an HHS official who spoke with NBC, it costs an average of $775 per person per day to hold the children in the tents, while it only costs $298 per person, per day to keep the families together. The cost increase associated with the “tent cities” is primarily due to air conditioning, security and staffing expenses, according to NBC. The more permanent shelters for just children, like the ones operated by Southwest, cost an average of $256 a day.
Prior to “zero tolerance,” families were detained together in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center for no more than 20 days. Families were then released and given ankle monitors until their court dates. Now, every adult caught illegally entering the U.S. is arrested, criminally charged and children are placed in a separate shelter.
According to NBC and Bloomberg, HHS is holding at least 12,000 immigrant children in detention facilities currently, 3,000 of whom were separated from their parents since Trump came into office. Others entered the U.S. on their own. On average, immigrant children stay in the custody of HHS for two months before being released to foster care or to live with a relative.