POLITICS

How Trump's pick for Health Department may have a great impact on immigration

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Health and Human Services Secretary, delivers the keynote address at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution entitled "A Reform Agenda for the Federal Budget Process," Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Health and Human Services Secretary, delivers the keynote address at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution entitled "A Reform Agenda for the Federal Budget Process," Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

If Georgia Congressman Tom Price is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the issue of immigration could be greatly impacted. 

In addition to to oversee the country's health care system, Price would head an office responsible for both resettling refugees in the United States and caring for immigrant children caught trying to cross the border on their own.

Trump ran on a promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare," so it’s not surprising that his pick for HHS would reflect this preference. 

But the five-term lawmaker also has joined his Republican colleagues in objecting to President Obama's immigration enforcement policies, including those at the border. He co-sponsored a bill that sought to let states block Syrian refugees from settling in their communities.

As president, Trump will have the power to decide how many refugees are allowed into the U.S.

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The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which helps refugees who move to the U.S., also cares for and places immigrant children caught crossing the border without their parents.

The office, a part of the HHS's Administration for Children and Families, provides shelter for the children until sponsors can be screened to take custody and bring the children to their immigration court hearings.

More than 129,000 children, mostly from Central America, have been placed in the department's care since October 2012. 

But sponsors, usually relatives already living in the United States, are not required to have legal immigration status. Some Republican lawmakers, including Jeff Sessions, have proposed forcing the department to refer sponsors in the country illegally to immigration enforcement authorities for deportation.

At the peak of a surge in child border crossings in 2014, Price said Obama's "refusal to enforce the laws of this land" on immigration contributed to the influx of young immigrants.

He also said Obama's request for millions of dollars in emergency spending for HHS might be necessary, but said the administration was "unable or unwilling to articulate a competent strategy on how it hopes to restore the rule of law and prioritize security along the border."

Changes to how children are reunited with relatives or placed with sponsors could cause some immigrants in the country illegally to think twice about taking custody of young immigrants.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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