US com­mu­ni­ties di­verge on child mi­grant re­sponse

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

DAL­LAS (AP) — As thou­sands of un­ac­com­pa­nied im­mi­grant chil­dren have poured into South Texas, com­mu­nity lead­ers from Dal­las to Los Angeles to Syracuse, N.Y., have of­fered to set up tem­po­rary shel­ters to re­lieve the Army bases, hold­ing cells and con­verted ware­houses at the bor­der.

The out­reach of­fers stand in sharp con­trast to other places around the coun­try, where some protested hav­ing im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica come to their towns while the na­tion’s lead­ers at­tempt to find so­lu­tions to the is­sue.

In Dal­las County, Judge Clay Jenk­ins has of­fered three county build­ings that could hold as many as 2,000 mi­grants at one time.

“These are just like your and my chil­dren, ex­cept that they’re scared and they’re dirty and they’re tired and they’re ter­ri­fied,” Jenk­ins said. “We can take some pres­sure off those bor­der troops and let them get out of the child­care busi­ness and back into the bor­der se­cu­rity busi­ness.”

More than 57,000 un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren have been ap­pre­hended since Oc­to­ber, the Bor­der Pa­trol says. Three-fourths of them are from Hon­duras, Gu­atemala and El Sal­vador, and say they are flee­ing per­va­sive gang vi­o­lence and crush­ing poverty. By the time they have reached South Texas, they have sur­vived a treach­er­ous jour­ney through drug-war-torn Mex­ico.

Pres­i­dent Obama has asked Congress to au­tho­rize $3.7 bil­lion in emer­gency spend­ing to in­crease en­force­ment at the bor­der, build more fa­cil­i­ties to tem­po­rar­ily house the un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors, and beef up le­gal aid. White House Press Sec­re­tary Josh Earnest has said the govern­ment will en­ti­tle due process but will not guar­an­tee a “wel­come to this coun­try with open arms.”

In the mean­time, from Cal­i­for­nia to Mas­sachusetts, com­mu­ni­ties are of­fer­ing to build or re­hab fa­cil­i­ties to take in child mi­grants un­til they con­nect with rel­a­tives, plea asy­lum cases or en­ter into fos­ter care. The U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices is re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing one of those three out­comes be­fore it de­ports any mi­nor.

Demon­stra­tors in Mur­ri­eta, Cal­i­for­nia, made na­tional head­lines for their strong op­po­si­tion to the child mi­grants. But while pro­test­ers frus­trated ef­forts to process im­mi­grant fam­i­lies there, other Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties have been en­cour­ag­ing agencies to build shel­ters and start pro­grams to as­sist un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren caught cross­ing the bor­der.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been work­ing with federal of­fi­cials and lo­cal non­prof­its to try to pro­vide shel­ter and le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the chil­dren, not­ing that many are likely plan­ning to re­unite with their par­ents.

In San Fran­cisco, county of­fi­cials are also look­ing at ways to help pro­vide med­i­cal, men­tal health, ed­u­ca­tional and le­gal ser­vices once the chil­dren are re­leased from federal cus­tody.

Thou­sands of miles from where the chil­dren are en­ter­ing the coun­try, Mas­sachusetts Gov. De­val Patrick said Fri­day that HHS of­fi­cials will re­view Camp Ed­wards mil­i­tary base on Cape Cod and Westover Air Re­serve Base in Chicopee to see if ei­ther is suit­able for hold­ing as many as 1,000 chil­dren.

And Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner wrote in a let­ter to Obama that her city would “wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide shel­ter” as part of a loose net­work of U.S. cities that have tra­di­tion­ally taken in and re­set­tled refugees.

“We’re not telling the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers how they long-term re­solve the cri­sis,” said Rich Ey­chaner, the founder and di­rec­tor of an epony­mous non­profit aim­ing to find fos­ter homes in Iowa for 1,000 mi­grant chil­dren. “We’re sim­ply say­ing there are a lot of re­sources, there are a lot of big hearts, there are a lot of big homes in Iowa, and we have space, and we have the ca­pac­ity to do this.”

In other com­mu­ni­ties, how­ever, lead­ers are show­ing their op­po­si­tion by pass­ing or­di­nances and spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion. In Michi­gan, Mary­land and Mur­ri­eta, Cal­i­for­nia, pro­test­ers have used demon­stra­tions and graf­fiti to make their point.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Bill Lam­bert holds a sign as he joins demon­stra­tors out­side the Mex­i­can Con­sulate on Fri­day, July 18, 2014, in Hous­ton. The sharp con­trast in how Amer­i­cans are re­act­ing to the im­mi­grant in­flux mir­rors the di­vi­sive­ness seen in Congress as the na­tion’s lead­ers at­tempt to find so­lu­tions to an is­sue that could worsen in the com­ing months.

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