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GOP Sen: Taxpayers Funding Organic Garden, Petting Farm, Guitar Lessons for Illegal Immigrant Children


"We have an organic orchard of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees..."

FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2014 file photo, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa takes part in a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Republican majority would usher in major changes in committee leadership, with political opposites replacing the current Democratic chairmen and setting a markedly different agenda from the past eight years of Democratic control. The size of a Republican majority would determine committee ratios and budgets; more seats in the Senate translate into a greater advantage on the panels. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday demanded more details from the Obama administration about a detention facility for illegal immigrant children that says it offers guitar lessons and other amenities that raises more questions about how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Over the summer, Grassley said the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress that it costs anywhere from $250 to $1,000 a day to house just a single illegal immigrant child.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to know why taxpayers are paying for guitar lessons and organic vegetable farms for detained illegal immigration children. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

On Thursday, Grassley said he has received information about one facility in California that includes pricey features that probably explain why it costs so much to house these children. That facility is in El Cajon, California, and is run by Southwest Key Programs, which described several amenities in documents it submitted to the government.

"We have an organic orchard of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees," according to the grant documents that the company gave HHS, which were obtained by Grassley. "As well as an Organic (sic) garden that supplements our kitchen with a wide variety of organic vegetables throughout the year."

"We have a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies," the grant documents added. "We have also established an Acuaponics system where we are cultivating over 1000 Tilapia."

The grant papers also boasted that the facility's windows offer a "splendid view of the beautiful California sunset."

Grassley said word of these plush features comes just weeks after HHS has said it's running out of funding to house illegal immigrant children. "The documents provided in response to my letter raise serious concerns regarding the department and Southwest Key's stewardship of taxpayer dollars," Grassley wrote in a letter to HHS.

Grassley added that in April, Southwest Key proposed a daily rate of $316 per child to house them at the facility. But Grassley said it's unclear what the company is currently charging per child.

Grassley's letter to HHS asked for several pieces of information about detention costs, including how much the El Cajon facility costs per day, and how many children are housed there.

Grassley also asked if HHS tried to negotiate down the fees charged by Southwest Key. Additionally, Grassley asked if HHS has approved grants for guitar lessons as part of "vocational training."

Read Grassley's letter here:

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