- Associated Press - Friday, August 1, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis political and civic leaders on Friday said they’re prepared to join dozens of other major U.S. cities to provide temporary housing for displaced child refugees from Central America.

Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley joined civic, faith and humanitarian group leaders at City Hall to announce the bid for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The International Institute of St. Louis will oversee the proposal, which is due next week and would cover three years of temporary care for up to 60 children.

The refugees would live in three established residential facilities for children for about one month while awaiting foster care or relocation to be with family members in the U.S. pending determination of their immigration status.

Cities across the country have offered to help care for some of the nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children apprehended in recent months at the U.S.-Mexico border, even as other communities have protested the influx.

“I understand the complexities of the politics and how divisive this issue has been for our country,” Slay said. “But, children need our help and we have the ability to help them. As a father, not doing so would be shameful.”

Several Republican elected officials and candidates in Tuesday’s primary election issued statements criticizing both the city’s housing offer and the federal government’s response.

“We need to lovingly and compassionately care for and house these children at the border with a speedy access to hearings in days - not months or years - and reunite them with their families back in their homes,” U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, said. “Instead this administration is moving these children farther away from their parents into our cities using taxpayer dollars while they languish in uncertainty. These children have already been exploited and moving them even farther away from their homeland is not compassionate.”