Trump’s pick to lead health agency to confront immigration
WASHINGTON (AP) — The congressman named by Donald Trump to oversee the country’s health care system would also have an impact on another top issue: immigration.
It’s an area where Georgia Republican Tom Price has been at odds with the Obama administration.
If Price is confirmed by the Senate to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, he would head an office responsible for both resettling refugees in the United States and caring for immigrant children caught trying to cross the border on their own.
The five-term lawmaker has joined his Republican colleagues in objecting to President Barack Obama’s immigration enforcement policies, including those at the border. He co-sponsored a bill that sought to let states block Syrian refugees from settling in their communities.
A look at some of the immigration issues Price would deal with if confirmed:
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) helps refugees who move to the U.S. by the tens of thousands every year. Though the program is primarily managed by the State Department, with the Homeland Security Department leading the screening effort, the office offers financial help and other resources to these immigrants once they are in the country.
Republican lawmakers, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice to run the Justice Department, have objected to Obama’s expansion of the refugee program and specifically to allowing more than 12,500 Syrian refugees into the U.S. during the 2016 budget year.
Price joined in Trump’s call to end, at least for now, refugee processing from Syria. Price was among more than 50 co-sponsors of a failed bill last year to prevent refugees from being resettled in states that do not want to take them.
As president, Trump will have the power to decide how many refugees are allowed into the U.S.
ORR, part of the department’s Administration for Children and Families, also cares for and places immigrant children caught crossing the border without their parents.
More than 129,000 children, mostly from Central America, have been placed in the department’s care since October 2012. The office provides shelter for the children until sponsors can be screened to take custody and bring the children to their immigration court hearings.
But those sponsors, usually relatives already living in the United States, are not required to have legal immigration status. Some Republican lawmakers, including Sessions, have proposed forcing the department to refer sponsors in the country illegally to immigration enforcement authorities for deportation.
At the peak of a surge in child border crossings in 2014, Price said Obama’s “refusal to enforce the laws of this land” on immigration contributed to the influx of young immigrants.
He also said Obama’s request for millions of dollars in emergency spending for HHS might be necessary, but said the administration was “unable or unwilling to articulate a competent strategy on how it hopes to restore the rule of law and prioritize security along the border.”
Changes to how children are reunited with relatives or placed with sponsors could cause some immigrants in the country illegally to think twice about taking custody of young immigrants.
Taxin reported from Santa Ana, California.
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