TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed a proposed permanent rule that prohibits the issuance or renewal of licenses for facilities or organizations that house Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) whom the Federal Government is resettling across the United States, including Florida, unless there is a cooperative agreement between the State of Florida and the Federal Government.
DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris said, “Through its policies, the Federal Government has made a decision to encourage the mass smuggling of minors to the southern border without their parents. No government that claimed to care for children would ever tolerate this. The Federal Government’s careless policies have led to this unsafe situation, and Florida will no longer be complicit in it. By ending the State’s involvement with the UAC program, the proposed rule will finally force the Federal Government to take full responsibility for the care and treatment of the UAC population.”
The proposed rule will not affect the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program because there is a cooperative agreement that governs the resettlement of URM. Additionally, the rule also bars existing licensees from adding to their UAC population, but would require them to conduct regular, in-person welfare checks of any UAC from their current population who are placed with sponsors in Florida.
UAC are minors, mostly older teenagers, who enter the country illegally without their parents. The journey to the southern border can be dangerous, and the UAC are often smuggled or trafficked by criminal actors, sometimes with the knowledge or participation of family members who are already illegally present in the country. The Biden Administration’s willful refusal to faithfully enforce the nation’s immigration laws has incentivized this intolerable state of affairs. In President Biden’s first year of office, the number of UAC arriving at the southern border ballooned to over 146,000, compared to approximately 33,000 in fiscal year 2020 and 80,000 in fiscal year 2019.
DCF is the state’s lead agency to implement and maintain Florida’s refugee resettlement program in coordination and consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and other federal agencies.
The state has an approved state plan for Refugee Resettlement with ORR, which defines the state’s role regarding URM, and this URM program is not impacted by the rule. Providers serving URM may continue to accept and serve these children.
There is, however, no corresponding agreement or state plan with ORR regarding UAC. DCF’s proposed rule prohibits a UAC child-placing or residential child-caring agency from accepting UAC without such an agreement in place.
The rule can be found here.