- Associated Press - Saturday, August 2, 2014

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - Officials in a southern Kansas city have voted against supporting a local group’s efforts to house unaccompanied immigrant children who’ve arrived in the U.S. illegally.

Newton spokeswoman Erin McDaniel said that at a special meeting Friday, the City Commission voted 4-0 against issuing a letter of support to EmberHope, a nonprofit faith-based group that has applied for a federal grant to house children at its Youthville facility in Newton. The group sought a letter of support from the city as part of its application process.

Shelley Duncan, president and CEO of EmberHope, said she wasn’t surprised by the vote. But she said she didn’t know how the vote would affect the grant proposal, which didn’t require the letter, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1u9LraZ ).

“That would depend on the federal grant reviewers,” she said.

In the last year, more than 50,000 children, many of them unaccompanied, have crossed the U.S. border, causing overcrowding at sites where the children are held while they await deportation proceedings.

The city of Newton said in a release that the 36-month grant would enable EmberHope to serve 30 children, who would stay about five weeks while awaiting placement elsewhere.

The city commission vote came after a meeting that drew about 90 people, including 13 who spoke. Most spoke against issuing the letter, saying they were concerned about such things as illnesses the children might bring and language barriers. One person spoke in favor of issuing the letter.

Newton Mayor Leroy Koehn said after the meeting that the city, which has about 20,000 residents and is located north of Wichita, had been confronted with a difficult issue.

“It’s frustrating that Washington pushes down to the local level these types of decisions instead of dealing with it in an appropriate way in Washington,” he said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com