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Separating Children From Parents at U.S. Border Has Already Cost Taxpayers More Than $80 Million

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separations of thousands of children from their parents may have officially ended in June, but many remain separated and the price tag continues to grow.

Over the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that a total of 2,667 children were separated from their parents, spending an average of 83 days in agency custody. One hundred forty children have yet to be reunited with their parents, and of them, 117 have parents that have already been deported. Thirty of the children will not be permitted to return to their parents due to the adults’ criminal histories.

This is all according to the latest report from HHS, shared with Congress last week and reported by The New York Times. Furthermore, the report notes that the cost of such separations has totaled more than $80 million in the last year—coming out to about $30,000 per child.

Expenses include providing housing and care for the children as well as their eventual reunification with their parents. Shelter costs alone, which includes food and education, came to close to $59 million. The remainder of the expenses went to items such as medical care and legal fees.

Nevertheless, these figures—on both the number of children separated from their parents and the cost of sheltering them—do not paint a complete picture of the ongoing situation. According to a new report from the Texas Tribune, there are 5,620 children living in state-licensed shelters across Texas alone. While not all of these children were separated from their parents by officials at the border, they represent a record number of unaccompanied youth living in the federally-funded, privately-run shelters.

Immigrant advocates suggest that the growing number is due to requirements implemented by the Trump administration that render matching children with sponsor families more difficult. These children are therefore living in the shelters for longer periods, spurring an increase in the number of facilities across Texas and a mass expansion of those that already exist, such as the tent city in Tornillo.

Finding homes for these children and reuniting the other 140 with their parents or other relatives will be both timely and costly.