Georgia governor, mayor send different messages on housing migrant children

(CNN) — As Congress debates whether to pass a bill to help deal with the influx of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, government leaders throughout the country continue to debate how to handle and where to house the children.

One place that battle is playing out is in Georgia.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal wrote to President Barack Obama last week asking for the federal government to stem the flow of the children to the state saying it was “unconscionable that your administration” failed to inform state officials that 1,154 of the kids had been sent there.

“Your administration continues to send refugees to Georgia, while at the same time many mayors and legislators from across the political spectrum have expressed their (and my) desire to reign in the influx of refugees to the state of Georgia. It is my hope that you and your administration will respect this request,” Deal said in his letter.

Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed voiced a different opinion on Tuesday saying such minors, after being detained, would be welcomed in his city.

“I’m going to send a message in no uncertain terms to the extent that these children need a safe place, and a safe haven, the city of Atlanta is going to be that,” the mayor told reporters, according to CNN affiliate WSB.

The White House also got some welcome news from other close political allies who expressed willingness to house some of the kids. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said over the weekend it’s willing to house up to 1,000 children in city facilities.

“The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing humanitarian crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Emanuel said Sunday in a statement. “While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot turn our backs on children that are fleeing dangerous conditions. We will do our part to ensure that these children are given access to services and treated fairly and humanely.”

More than 50,000 unaccompanied children have been detained so far as they’ve tried this year to cross the U.S. southern border. Federal authorities say the rate of apprehension has slowed in recent weeks.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, a major proponent of immigration reform and someone who has strongly opposed calls for deporting the children after they are arrested, said he is proud to see Chicago “lead by example” in trying to find housing for some of the minors.

“Sometimes the greatness of our nation and our city are tested and how we treat children in danger is one of those tests,” Gutiérrez said in a statement.

Earlier this month Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, another major Democratic supporter of the President, proposed two locations in the Bay State to temporarily house undocumented immigrant children, including a federal base on Cape Cod. That proposal has generated a controversy among some Massachusetts residents.

These offers follow a dust-up between another Democratic ally, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and the White House over the issue.

O’Malley, who had criticized plans to deport many of the undocumented children, clashed with a senior White House official in a phone call after he asked some of the kids not be sent to a site in his state.

“What I said was that would not be the most inviting site in Maryland,” O’Malley told CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. “There are already hundreds of kids already located throughout Maryland.”

O’Malley was referring to his phone conversation with White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Munoz. O’Malley also told CNN he was open to housing them in other sites in the state.

1 Comment

  • Nuclear Mike

    The Atlanta Mayor is just trying to find a way for more Federal monies to be spent there in his offices under the pretense of “helping children” as the President has funneled other tax monies to Atlanta for his other “pet” projects.

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