More than 100 House Democrats Sign Bustos-led Letter Demanding Details On How Many Tax Dollars are Being Spent on President Trump’s Family Separation Policy

Bustos Letter asks the Departments of Homeland Security and Health & Human Services how many hard-earned tax dollars were and are being used to tear children from their families

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and 107 of her Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar demanding to know how many tax dollars have been and are currently being used on President Trump’s family separation policy. The letter asks several specific questions seeking to find the true cost to taxpayers covering the gamut of procedures these children have been put through – from capture, to transportation, to detainment and, hopefully, to reunification with their families.

Bustos, a member of Democratic House Leadership, released the following statement:

“Hardworking taxpayers have a right to know exactly how much of their money President Trump is spending to keep kids in cages. Like virtually all moms, I’ve been haunted by the sights and sounds of President Trump’s policy of taking children away from their parents, putting them on planes and locking them up. It’s an outrage that the Trump Administration is thrusting the bill for this barbaric policy on the American people. House Democrats are demanding that the Trump Administration come clean about exactly how much their family separation policy has already cost taxpayers. The American people have a right to know who is making money from putting kids in cages as well as how much it’s going to cost to bring this dark chapter in our nation’s history to a close.”


To view a signed PDF of the letter, click here.

Below is the full text of Congresswoman Bustos’ letter along with a list of signatories.


June 26, 2018

Dear Secretaries Azar and Nielsen:

As federal officials, we have a moral obligation to uphold the values that have always made America a beacon of hope, democracy and decency in the world.

We also have an obligation to the hardworking taxpayers across this nation who entrust us to spend their money wisely.

Over the last several weeks, we have been appalled by the images of children being separated from their parents at the border and haunted by the cries of toddlers taken from their mothers. We believe to our core that this is an immoral policy and a harmful misuse of taxpayer funds.

News sources have reported that it is costing the taxpayers as much as $256 per night at permanent facilities and $775 per child per day at makeshift tent cities under this family separation policy. It is our understanding that this does not necessarily include things like the cost of transporting children from the border to detention centers.

The public deserves a complete and thorough accounting of exactly how much of their money you have spent breaking up thousands of families on our southern border. Specifically, we are requesting, in writing:

  • The average per day bed costs for children separated from their parents.  Include individual costs at temporary tent cities for immigrant children, permanent facilities or shelters for immigrant children and family detainment facilities.
  • The average length of detention of children separated from their parents.
  • The amount spent to transport separated children to their detention centers.
  • The amount agencies pay in rent, maintenance or other indirect costs for facilities to house or care for separated children.
  • The number of staff hours spent separating children from their parents.
  • A description of the kind of trauma counseling these children receive and how much has been spent in this area.
  • A description of the medical care these children receive. Please itemize the cost associated with the various treatments provided on things like mental health exams, immunizations and other pediatric treatments.
  • A full list of contractors, contracts and contract costs to house or in any way care for children separated from their parents.
  • Account for any additional direct or indirect costs, beyond those specified above, incurred by the federal government in separating and detaining children taken from their parents.
  • The estimated cost to taxpayers to reunite these children with their families.
  • The estimated timeline for completing reuniting these children with their families.

In short, we are requesting full and immediate transparency in accounting of this misuse of taxpayer dollars.

It’s hard to underscore how alarming it has been to see the White House, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services issuing contradictory and false information over the last few weeks. We urge you to take this opportunity to be transparent and forthright with the American public.


We request that you provide this information as quickly as possible, but no later than July 10th.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Rep. Cheri Bustos


Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II

Rep. Jacky Rosen

Rep. Judy Chu

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

Rep. Yvette Clarke

Rep. Jim Cooper

Rep. Lois Frankel

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

Rep. Ted Deutch

Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

Rep. Kathleen Rice

Rep. Dina Titus

Rep. Bobby Rush

Rep. Tom Suozzi

Rep. Tim Walz

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Bill Foster

Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson

Rep. Jim McGovern

Rep. Tim Ryan

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Dave Loebsack

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Darren Soto

Rep. Juan Vargas

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings

Rep. Tom O’Halleran

Rep. Jamie Raskin

Rep. Julia Brownley

Rep. Grace Meng

Rep. Anthony Brown

Rep. Filemon Vela

Rep. Rick Nolan

Rep. Ruben Kihuen

Rep. Alma S. Adams, Ph.D

Rep. Debbie Dingell

Rep. Ami Bera

Rep. Bill Pascrell

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán

Rep. Ro Khanna

Rep. Andrè Carson

Rep. Salud Carbajal

Rep. Karen Bass

Rep. David Cicilline

Rep. Marc Veasey

Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty

Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Dan Lipinski

Rep. Jim Himes

Rep. Jimmy Gomez

Rep. Charlie Crist

Rep. Niki Tsongas

Rep. Derek Kilmer

Rep. Steve Cohen

Rep. Ann Kuster

Rep. Albio Sires

Rep. Kathy Castor

Rep. Scott Peters

Rep. Suzan DelBene

Rep. Donald McEachin

Rep. Bradley S. Schneider

Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence

Rep. Seth Moulton

Rep. Michael Capuano

Rep. Robert A. Brady

Rep. Danny K Davis

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Rep. Don Beyer

Rep. Mark Pocan

Rep. Donald Payne, Jr.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat

Rep. Paul Tonko

Rep. Ruben Gallego

Rep. John Yarmuth

Rep. Diana DeGette

Rep. Gerry Connolly

Rep. Julian Castro

Rep. Nita Lowey

Rep. Lou Correa

Rep. John Sarbanes

Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Rep. Robin Kelly

Rep. Nydia Velazquez

Rep. Pete Aguilar

Rep. Raul Ruiz

Rep. Grace Napolitano

Rep. Katherine Clark

Rep. Sanford Bishop

Rep. John Lewis

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay

Rep. Val Demings

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Rep. Ed Perlmutter

Rep. Denny Heck

Rep. Lucille Roybal Allard

Rep. Henry Cuellar

Rep. Gene Green