Should Minnesota house immigrant children from Central America?


Would Minnesota be a good place for some of the children who are flooding across the U.S. border from Central America?

That question is becoming a political football.

U.S. House Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minnesota, is urging Gov. Mark Dayton to allow some of the unaccompanied children into the state, the Star Tribune reports.

“We have capacity to help here and we should,” Ellison said Monday at a community meeting in Minneapolis, the newspaper reported.

Dayton said it's not clear what Minnesota's role might be. "I would have to know where it’d fit in, what it would cost and where we would have sites potentially available.”

But among the conservatives who are not eager for states to absorb the children is Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour, who last week prodded Dayton to “let the president know that Minnesota is not the place to send these kids.”

“Before President Obama looks to our state to solve his man-made crisis, it’s time for Governor Dayton to join other Midwestern governors and let the president know it’s time for him to lead," Honour said in his statement.

Several aid group officials who help immigrants in Minnesota told the Star Tribune they do not have the resources that would be needed to help a new wave of Central American children.

The problem

At issue are tens of thousands of children who have been streaming across the border at a rate twice that of last year.

Advocates for the children say they deserve protections – that many of them are "refugees" fleeing violence in their home countries, some of whom have been pressured to join gangs.

But many conservatives, including Republicans in Congress, say the Obama administration needs to speed deportations and secure the border.

The Obama administration has estimated that 60,000 "unaccompanied alien children" will pour over the Southwest border by the end of September, although Border Patrol estimates it could be more like 90,000, the Washington Post reported.

State and federal officials are struggling mightily to accommodate the wave of immigrant minors, many of them unaccompanied from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Images of overcrowded conditions have surfaced.

Immigrants are being housed in as many as 100 shelters mostly near the U.S.-Mexico border, managed by the Department of Health and Human Services; three temporary shelters with 3,000 beds have been opened on military bases in California, Oklahoma and Texas, the New York Times notes.

In an effort to find a short-term solution, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials sent mass e-mails to advocacy groups nationwide seeking potential detention facilities, the New Republic reports. The agency said it would even consider warehouses, big-box stores, shopping malls, airport hangars and dorms, the publication said.

For more good background on this complex issue, the news-analysis site Vox recently published 14 facts that help explain the crisis, and the New York Times has a helpful Q and A.

New developments

  • The flood of immigrant children prompted Texas Gov. Rick Perry this week to order 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports today that Border Patrol agents in South Texas are arresting record low numbers of immigrants illegally crossing the border, about 420,000 in the last budget year.
  • In Congress this week, some lawmakers are pushing to change a 2008 law that gave immigrant children from countries that don't share a border with the U.S. a chance to argue for asylum before deportation, the Arizona Republic reports.
  • One Minnesota neighbor, Iowa, has accepted 139 immigrant children without parents, although it's not known for sure if they are from Central America, or where they are now residing, the Des Moines Register reports.

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