On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports that more than 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children have sponsors to house them in the New York region. One of these children is 16 year old Annabelia Maribel Diaz from Guatemala. Of violent gangs in her home country, Annabelia says, “They started killing people. Every week there was someone who died.”
Threatened by the violent gangs, Anabelia and her half-brother Luis Miguel Diaz traveled about 1,200 miles to the U.S. border in Texas where they were detained in April by U.S. law-enforcement agents.
On Tuesday, Republicans in the United States House of Representatives introduced a bill to allow quicker deportation of children who have illegally crossed into the United States via the US-Mexican border. The bill would remove protections to children from Central American countries provided by a 2008 law passed under President George W. Bush.
On the day before the Republicans introduced their bill to speed up deportation of the children, Vermont’s governor Peter Shumlin wrote to the U.S. Department of Human Services that his state lacks the capacity to host large numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children. The letter was in response to a request from the federal government for Vermont to host up to 1,000 children.
The Washington Times quoted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, in opposition to the Republican bill, “We must have a heart and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children.”
The Associated Press reports that since October more than 57,000 children, unaccompanied by adults, have crossed the Mexican border into the United States. They have come on a journey from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico to reach the U.S. They are fleeing extreme poverty and gang violence often related to drug trafficking and the war on drugs.
As a Dallas, Texas county judge said, the children are “dirty and they’re tired and they’re terrified.”
Oregon is taking 50 children. According to kgw.com, records show that 50 unaccompanied kids who have recently crossed the US-Mexican border have been sponsored by caretakers in Oregon. Some of the children will be reunited with family members already in the United States. KGW also reports that 200 of the children are being taken to Washington state, and more than 3,000 to California.
Other localities, in other states are being sought by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary shelters for many of the children. In Pennsylvania, David Reed, the CEO of the United Methodists Home for Children in Mechanicsburg says the home has received a grant from the HHS to provide shelters for some of the children.
Illinois governor Pat Quinn said his state could help. The Quad-City Times quoted the governor as saying, “My administration will continue to discuss this important subject with other federal, state and local elected officials. In times of trouble, we cannot forget that kindness to strangers and trusting in our faith will always help lead us to do the right thing.”
There has been push back to helping care for the children. The Boston Globe reported on a protest against a proposed plan by Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick to house some of the children in his state. The Globe reported Mark Fisher, a Tea Party backed candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, as saying, “The state can’t take care of the children in its own care, yet these immigrants are coming in and skipping the line.”
The Washington Post editorialized against contradictions in the rhetoric of Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley(D) about the issue of the children, citing the governor’s appeal to the nation to be compassionate while he opposed housing some of the children at an empty Army Reserve facility near Baltimore. The Post implied that the governor’s opposition was motivated in part by not wanting to anger white conservative voters. An aide to O’Malley was quoted as saying the children would be “traumatized” by hostility from the locals.
If one had to compare a little hostility from white conservative Americans to that of being threatened by gang violence in their native country, one would think the children would opt for the former every time.