The US is wasting $180,000 per year on detaining a migrant child

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Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The United States government plans to spend approximately $1.3 billion (FY18 appropriation) to nonprofit organizations and local government agencies annually to keep detained migrant children and provide services via Unaccompanied Alien Children Program.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the organization that takes custody of the children within three days of their detainment, almost 11,800 children are placed in over 100 facilities located in 17 different states.

$943 million of the planned budget has already been spent nationwide this year. Southwest Key, a non-profit that is receiving a lot of negative media coverage lately, has received nearly $459 million of this amount. That is nearly half (!) of the total.

But here is what is really interesting. The organization says it is currently housing 5,169 kids and about 10 percent of them are children separated from their families, the others being unaccompanied children. The non-profit says an average stay is currently about 52 days. Assuming that the organization is paid for the time kids are at its facilities, Southwest Key has been compensated $459 million for holding around 5000 kids for half a year, which roughly translates into the cost of $180,000 per child per year.

Please note that the above amount is, again, calculated as annualized cost and actual cost would depend on the holding time.

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of this, especially, given the woeful conditions the children are held in those facilities, per the latest media coverage.

The absolute majority of Americans manage to take care of their whole family for around one third of the amount the federal government wastes to imprison these children.

When this kind of money is wasted with little control and check, it creates huge incentive to lobby for further increases in both overall budget and number of kids to be imprisoned.

While most Americans are caught up in the rhetoric of  blaming games by our politicians, it has become a very lucrative business, which can pay for many things, including $1.5 million annual salary of Southwest Key’s CEO, Mr. Sanchez.

While normal businesses are happy with the annual growth of their respective overall market in single digits, the “market” size of imprisoning children has grown by almost 40% from 2016 to 2018, and that is if they manage to stay within budget, which they probably won’t. So far, they have managed to spend over 70% of it in half a year.

Who to Blame?

And, while the Trump administration has drastically increased the spending, this, by no means, is the bad Republicans versus the good Democrats story. This is the Republicans and Democrats working in the same direction while blaming each other story. Consider this. Obama increased the spending for UAC more than seven-fold. Trump has it doubled already. Together these two gentlemen are responsible for taking it from $91 million in 2008 to $1.3 billion in 2018.

Here is one way to look at it. Every other developed nation manages to fund free higher education, except the US. We seem to have different priorities and it is time to really straighten those. One billion dollars could pay for one year of free education for over 100,000 students and that would be a great investment into the future of this country.

If this is an important issue for you, please take few seconds to share the link to this story on social media. Unfortunately, the mainstream media can have different priorities and is often driven by partisanship and their own agenda. 

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