A controversy could be fizzling out over whether Dayton will host immigrant children from Central America in temporary shelters. The federal government told Mayor Nan Whaley it might not need the help, after all.
Whaley had gone head-to-head with Republican Congressman Mike Turner (R-10th) and a group of local Republicans who opposed the mayor’s offer to provide housing for the thousands of unaccompanied kids showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of them are running from violence in their home countries. Whaley described it as a humanitarian crisis, while her opponents said the Miami Valley can’t afford to take on the needs of a new group of young people. The federal government had said it would cover the costs for the shelters.
Now the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the numbers of kids crossing the border have gone way down since July, following an historic spike in the first half of 2014. But HHS says while the need for shelters has gone down, the problem of how to keep the children in safe shelter persists and could get worse again. Mayor Whaley says Dayton will step in if needed.
“The federal government called and asked us to be helpful,” she says. “If they need our help, we have our duty as Americans to be as helpful as we can be.”
HHS is responsible for finding temporary shelter for the children until they can go in front a judge who decides whether they’ll be granted asylum, or deported. The agency says it has successfully released tens of thousands of the kids to sponsors inside the U.S. this year, including 360 in Ohio; the kids remain with the sponsors, many of whom are family members, until they can get a court date. Meanwhile, Congress has been grid-locked on legislation to address the problem, which some say stems in part from a 2008 law intended to address child trafficking.
Congressman Mike Turner put out a release Thursday reiterating that he believes Mayor Whaley doesn’t speak for the region in her willingness to help HHS find places for the children and urging the Obama administration to address the issue.
"While I am pleased to hear that HHS is no longer seeking facilities for temporary shelters for unaccompanied children at this time,” he says in the release, “a great deal of uncertainty remains about the security of our border and the Obama Administration’s enforcement of our immigration laws.”
Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter and substitute morning host. Follow him @lewispants.