The federal program for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)—which provides long-term foster care, apparel, and interpreter services for thousands of young illegal immigrants, the majority of which are placed in the United States—has already cost $263 million this year.
The recent surge in underage illegal immigrants crossing the southern border has prompted President Barack Obama to ask for $3.7 billion in additional funding, $1.8 billion of which would go to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which administers the UAC program.
The program had a budget of $376.083 million last year, and is on pace to spend nearly $1 billion in 2014. HHS has requested a contingency fund for 2015, due to the "rapidly expanding Unaccompanied Alien Children program."
The majority of funding goes to nonprofit organizations and charities that provide living arrangements, education, health care, vocational training, mental health services, and other services.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson for HHS’s Administration of Children and Families, said approximately 88 percent of minors within the program are placed with family members or a verified sponsor in the U.S.
The number of young illegal aliens flooding the border has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2009, only 6,639 unaccompanied alien children were resettled, and the number remained stable until 2011, with 7,120. In 2012, there were twice as many unaccompanied alien children at 14,271, the same year the administration announced its deferred action for young illegal aliens. By 2013 there were 25,498.
According to the Congressional Research Service, a total of 47,017 unaccompanied alien children have crossed the border this year.
The majority of funding for the UAC program goes towards foster care. Southwest Key, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that shelters unaccompanied alien children, is the largest government partner for the program, receiving grants worth $95,462,918 so far this fiscal year.
Nonprofits outside of border states also receive funding to shelter illegal alien children. The New Jersey Heartland Human Care Services in Chicago has received $19,118,403 this year, while the Union County Department of Human Services in New Jersey received $550,384 on March 20.
The influx of alien children has forced the government to place emergency orders for clothing, shelter, and interpreter services.
The government ordered $6,040 of "Mission Critical" footwear on June 12 for the "large influx of unaccompanied alien children along the Rio Grande Valley border."
Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security spent $24,815 on children and infants’ apparel on June 13, and $13,339 on men’s outerwear June 27.
A sweatshirt order worth $3,428 from Promotions Plus, Inc. was also ordered on Jan. 1 for children being "transported from the southwest border to Chicago and Berks, Pa."
More than $100,000 for telephone interpreter services were also ordered for the program at the end of June.
The president’s request for $3.7 billion in additional funding would go to HHS to provide shelter for the influx of young illegal aliens.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) suggested on Wednesday that it would be cheaper to fly the children back home first class.
"We're putting a lot of kids at risk," he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. "Remember, this is organized crime that is selling this and these three countries that you can get them here and they'll be here and they're extracting large amounts of money and then abusing children as they carry them up here."
"It's terrible. The best way to stop that is to have airplanes landing every day bringing these children back to their country of origin," he said.
"The president just asked for $3.7 billion, for less than $20 million we can fly them all back first class," Coburn added. "So think about how stupid our policy is."