The immigration-related issue that has captivated the national media in the past month concerns the growing humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States, where thousands of foreign national children are entering the country by themselves in order to flee gang-fueled violence and other dangers in their home Central American countries.
While the nation still anxiously awaits Congress’ movement on comprehensive reform, immigration advocates and opponents alike are now also waiting for President Obama to decide what to do with the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors who are now in the United States. One proposed solution is to relocate the children to centers across the country while they await the processing of their cases in the (already overburdened) immigration court system. Unfortunately, a number of states have not been receptive to this idea.
Massachusetts’ Reaction to the Children
The President has enlisted state governments to assist the administration in its efforts to relocate the children. In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick has proposed an arrangement that would give temporary shelter to a maximum of 1,000 unaccompanied children on one of Massachusetts’ own air bases or military training facilities. According to Governor Patrick’s proposal, sheltering the children at these facilities would be financed and staffed by the federal government and would continue for a maximum of four months.
Massachusetts residents are not overwhelmingly receptive to this idea. Per a conducted poll, 43 percent of respondents indicated that they oppose the Governor’s plan. Additionally, when asked about national immigration proposals, Massachusetts residents expressed their opposition to allowing the children to stay in the U.S. (43 percent replied that the government should deport the children) and to providing a pathway to citizenship for foreign nationals in the U.S. without authorization (48 percent disagree with this proposition).
In contrast to the Massachusetts residents, Oregonians are welcoming the children to their state, with advocate groups holding rallies to help roll out the welcome wagon to the unaccompanied foreign minors. For Oregon, specific centers have not yet been designated as housing for the children, but the state is currently in discussions with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement in order to finalize these details and related issues. (Of course, there are also anti-immigrant groups in Oregon who oppose the idea of relocating the children to their state, but at the present time the proponents outnumber the opponents.)
Other States’ Reactions
Other state representatives have been releasing statements echoing both Massachusetts’ and Oregon’s positions on what to do with the growing unaccompanied minor population. For instance, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, after publicly criticizing the White House for proposing to deport the children, privately requested that the children not be sent to Maryland. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant made a similar request in a strongly worded letter to the Obama Administration. The responses from 32 of the state governors may be found here.
At a time when thousands of children are fleeing violence, drugs, human trafficking, and other atrocities, it is unconscionable that states would refuse to cooperate with the President in finding a solution for these children that protects their best interests. Continue to check back with our blog as we provide up-to-date coverage on this and all other immigration-related issues.
Additional Blog Posts
What Employers Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ImmigRantings, November 28, 2012
New Jersey is the Newest State to Offer In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students, ImmigRantings, January 23, 2014