Florida Gov. DeSantis can’t shut down immigrant child shelters, Biden administration says

As Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration moves forward with attempting to shut down shelters that provide housing and other services for unaccompanied immigrant children, the revoking of licenses might be more rhetorical than effective, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Biden administration sent a letter Tuesday to DeSantis’ general counsel, Ryan Newman, saying that state licenses aren’t required for shelter operators to continue receiving federal funds. 

In Tuesday’s letter to Newman, Greenberg said that, under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, “Florida cannot take action against federal contractors for activities that are expressly authorized by federal law.”

And the state does not have the authority to punish the providers if their licenses lapse and they continue to offer services to unaccompanied immigrant children, Mark Greenberg, a deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote to Newman.

“When ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) grantees accept a placement of unaccompanied noncitizen children, the provision of care to those children and other activities pursuant to cooperative agreements with ORR are activities expressly authorized by federal law in furtherance of ORR’s statutorily mandated mission,” Greenberg wrote.

The letter also pointed out that the state is not allowed to “discriminate against the federal government and its contractors, including by treating them differently with respect to licensing than similarly situated parties, based solely on objections to federal policies.”

Florida cannot “take any action against those grantees based on their activities on behalf of the federal government,” Greenberg wrote.

Currently, 17 shelters provide housing and other services, such as medical care and education, to children who arrive in the country without parents. The children are placed in shelters by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement while their immigration status is being processed. The Florida shelters received about $66 million in federal funds last year, according to documents provided by the state Department of Children and Families.

DeSantis in January told the Biden administration that Florida “no longer wishes to be involved in the federal government’s UAC (unaccompanied alien children) resettlement program.” Florida congressional Democrats on Wednesday called on DeSantis to reconsider his stance. 

Limiting the licensed shelter capacity for unaccompanied minors “is liable to result in more unaccompanied children being placed in unlicensed facilities, which have a poorer track record of providing safe and humane treatment,” wrote U.S. House members Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, Frederica Wilson, Kathy Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Ted Deutch, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

“Endangering unaccompanied children’s access to care from providers who are trained to ensure the safety and welfare of children in their custody and subject to rigorous oversight is needlessly cruel,” the Democrats argued. “We urge you to consider rescinding these policies and work with us to uphold Florida’s proud legacy of ensuring the safety, welfare and dignity of all children.”




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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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