As a record number of unaccompanied minors continue to flock across the United States-Mexico border, both the federal government and nonprofit organizations are looking at temporary housing for the children. Border Patrol and HHS facilities are running far overcapacity. In fact, the Donna Border Patrol facility in Texas is running at 1,700 percent of capacity. There are 4,100 unaccompanied minors in that facility that is designed for no more than 250 people. And that seems to be a common thread throughout the immigration system.
The unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border has nonprofit organizations restructuring and rethinking their programs. That's precisely what Friends of Youth, a Washington State-based program providing services and housing for homeless and foster youth, decided to do. The nonprofit realized they could receive extra funding for taking in unaccompanied minors.
Friends of Youth "restructured," which meant four foster kids – between the ages of 12 and 18 – and their foster parents were kicked out of their home in Renton. Edmundo and Paula Serena Sanchez have provided roughly 20 foster kids with a home over the last seven years. Their home, however, is a facility that belongs to Friends of Youth.
The home is being transitioned "…to provide a different scope of services in support of unaccompanied youth," a letter from the nonprofit stated. The reason for the change, according to Friends of Youth Chief Program Officer DeAnn Adams, is "the organization saw a new funding source with the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement and decided to use the Howard's House – where Serena Sanchez and his foster family now live – as housing for undocumented immigrant children," KING 5 reported.
Despite there being an eviction moratorium in place, the nonprofit says they are exempt.
“The agreement in place with this family is not a traditional rent/lease agreement and therefore does not fall under the eviction moratorium,” the Friends of Youth's FAQ page reads. “The family voluntarily entered into an agreement that clearly stipulated a lack of lease or residential tenancy rights.”
Friends of Youth's Director of Marking and Communications, Hannah Mello, told KTTH the nonprofit wouldn't see an increase in funding from the decision. The organization, however, did receive $410,588 from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The funding, according to Mello, will come directly from the federal government, not the state.
“The new residential program will receive funding from the federal government for the youth in our care. However, the funding will be provided as a reimbursement for costs after they are incurred, under strict federal guidelines,” Mello said in a statement.
The foster care system lacks adequate bed space for foster care kids, which has resulted in them being housed in hotel rooms and state office buildings. Instead of keeping these foster kids in a loving, stable environment where they can thrive, the nonprofit organization chose unaccompanied minors over America's youth.
“Why on earth are they allowing this to happen to our most vulnerable youth? It’s wrong,” State Rep. Michelle Caldier, a former foster child herself, told KING 5. “There’s a reason as to why they are choosing to go with the ‘unaccompanied minors’ and change their program. They tend to chase the dollars.”
The worst part is this is having a dramatic toll on the four foster kids that were living in the home, especially after being on lockdown over the last year. One of the kids had to be taken to the hospital for panic attacks while a teenager ran away and has yet to return.
But remember folks. This isn't a border "crisis." It's simply a "humanitarian challenge." And it's having a grave impact on America's youth.