Denver considers housing immigrant children

DENVER - Denver officials say they're considering taking care of some of the immigrant children who have overwhelmed border facilities in recent months.

The federal government is offering about $4 million a year to cities who can house and provide other services to the children. In a statement Friday, Mayor Michael Hancock says some Denver relatives of the children will likely want to take them in, so it makes financial sense to consider asking for the funding.

Denver Department of Human Services spokeswoman Ana Mostaccero says the city hasn't submitted an application yet and is still doing a feasibility study.

If the city wins a grant, the children would be placed in the existing Family Crisis Center. It has bedrooms, classrooms and a dining hall and is only partially being used.

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.

South of Houston, the town of League City passed a resolution refusing any request - should one ever come from the federal government - to set up detention or processing centers there, citing "health concerns."

A group of Southeast Texas mayors said they support a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Peter Olson that would give local communities 90 days to assess any federal request to house unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed into the U.S. A congressman from Nebraska introduced similar legislation.

Federal law will likely pre-empt these efforts, but they remain a forceful expression of hostility toward the idea of temporary shelter for the migrants. Americans for Legal Immigration, a political action committee classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, has helped organize nearly 300 demonstrations for this weekend.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has said offering shelter sends a false signal that people who enter the country illegally are welcome.
 

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