Iowa refuses to house Central American migrant children

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said in a July 13 press conference that his state does not want to house immigrant children who have come from Central America and crossed illegally into the United States. Brandstad said that he did not know whether such child immigrants are indeed already in Iowa while he demanded that the federal government secure America's borders.

Branstad, along with other state governors, discussed the issue with federal officials on July 12. According to current federal law, children arriving in the U.S. from non-contiguous countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, who are not accompanied by adult relatives are to be turned over for processing by the federal government. Currently, thousands of children are being housed in federal facilities such as Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio TX. Adults with children are being released on their own recognizance and told to appear for immigration adjudication at a later date. Since October 1, 2013, more than  57,000 non-accompanied minors have entered the US and generated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis along the international border.

Fox News reported that the US Border Patrol and other law enforcement have frequently found the bodies of young children who have drowned in their attempt to reach the US. According to the report, no reaction was registered on the part of President Barack Obama or his administration to the tragedy. However, Obama has spoken of the dangers inherent in the dangerous trek migrants face in coming from Central America and Mexico by riding on the roofs of railcars carrying cargo north through Mexico. Many have been targeted by smugglers, narcoterrorists such as MS-13, and corrupt officials. There are frequent rapes, deaths and maiming at the hands of criminals, or when migrants fall onto the rails. One recent victim of the trek north was Gilberto Ramos, a 15-year-old Guatemalan boy who expired from heat prostration. His lifeless body was found on June 15 by law enforcement authorities in Texas just north of the international border. His only defense from the elements and abandonment by smugglers was a rosary that his mother gave him in Guatemala before his departure from the Central American country one month prior to his death. He had been trying to reach his brother, who works in Chicago. 

Unlike Iowa, Michigan is already preparing to receive unaccompanied minors. Residents of Vassar, a small rural town north of Detroit, were informed last week that a nearby facility operated by Wolverine Human Services is negotiating a sub-contract with the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance to provide temporary housing and other services to minors being brought from the border region to the Mitten State. At a townhall meeting on July 9, Wolverine spokesman Erick McCree said that the minors would initially number from 60 to 120 and would stay for approximately one month before being replaced by a similar group. Wolverine would provide immunizations, counseling, and related services to the migrant children who are coming with little more than the clothes on their back but also bearing psychological and physical trauma.

Immigrant advocacy groups, such as Michigan United, are already terming these migrants as 'refugees' in advance of any adjucation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The endemic crime and violence in Central America has worsened in recent years, but the promise of being allowed to remain in the US has also served as a significant draw for desperately poor people of the drug-laden isthmus south of Mexico.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under crime, politics, iowa, michigan, crime, immigration, politics, Americas


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