Beth Reinhard and Peter Nicholas, Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2014
In a sign of the far-reaching impact of the U.S. immigration crisis and its political fallout, Nebraska’s governor says 200 children who entered the country illegally were sent to his state this week without warning and that federal officials are refusing to identify them or their locations.
Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, said federal officials also wouldn’t answer questions about public school attendance by the children and the potential costs to taxpayers.
“Governors and mayors have the right to know when the federal government is transporting a large group of individuals, in this case illegal immigrants, into your state,” Mr. Heineman told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Saturday. “We need to know who they are, and so far, they are saying they’re not going to give us that information.”
An Obama administration official on Saturday said the Central American children now in Nebraska aren’t at a facility but are being housed with family members and sponsors while they await immigration proceedings. Some of the children arrived in the recent border surge, while others came earlier in the year.
The border crossings are a top concern among state officials gathered here for a National Governors Association meeting and a reminder, they say, that Congress’s failure to overhaul immigration laws puts heavy burdens on the states.
“There are concerns that this type of activity–placing children in locations across the country–is occurring throughout the United States, and information is not being shared appropriately with states,” the Republican Governors Association policy director, Marie Thomas Sanderson, wrote in an email to members on Friday and viewed by the Journal.
Will Jenkins, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the immigrant children, said the health and human services department is required to protect the privacy of unaccompanied children and keep their personal information confidential.
“Federal law requires that HHS feed, shelter and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to place them in safe settings with family members or sponsors while they await immigration proceedings,” he said in a written statement. “These family members and sponsors live in many states, including Nebraska.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, said his state received a letter from the Obama administration in recent weeks asking if there were any “big facilities” that could house some of the people crossing the border. He said his state doesn’t have such a facility and that he is open to working with faith-based groups to find suitable housing.
Mr. Obama has pledged to send migrant children who don’t qualify to stay back to their home counties, but federal law requires those who cross alone from countries other than Mexico and Canada to have their cases heard in the immigration courts, which can take years. Meanwhile, they can stay in the U.S., usually with relatives.