Migrant children play soccer at a shelter for unaccompanied children in Homestead, FL.
Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

The Trump administration has stopped paying for English classes, recreational programs, and legal aid for unaccompanied migrant children staying in federally contracted shelters, claiming that its budget has been stretched too thin by by the influx of people at the southern border, according to the Washington Post.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official notified shelters of the change last week, the paper said.

In a statement to Splinter, Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson for the government’s Administration for Children and Families, said that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is tasked with housing migrant children who come to the U.S. alone, had this week “instructed grantees to begin scaling back or discontinuing awards for UAC activities that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation.”

Stauffer said this was due to what she described as “a humanitarian crisis at the border brought on by a broken immigration system that is putting tremendous strain” on the department.

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In an email obtained by the Post, an HHS official wrote that the government will not pay for education or recreation services administered as of May 22. Among these activities are English and math classes, soccer, and ping pong.

State licensing policies and a 1997 federal court settlement, however, require that children in federal custody are entitled to a classroom education and recreation activities. And last year, HHS even proposed that educational services and recreation and leisure time activities be included within the bare minimum of standards for licensed programs detaining families.

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Reveal reporter Patrick Michels tweeted that the moves could put the Trump administration in legal jeopardy.

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The budgetary change comes after President Trump asked Congress for another $4.5 billion in border funding, including $2.9 billion for HHS to expand shelters detaining unaccompanied migrant children. According to CBP, more than 44,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border between October and April.

We have reached out to HHS for comment and will update if we hear back.