- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2014

Add the small town of Westminster, Maryland, to the growing list of places where the Obama administration canceled plans to send unaccompanied immigrant children pouring across the border.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the weekend nixed a proposal to put some of the children in an abandoned Army Reserve post in Westminster, a rural town about 50 miles north of Washington, after running into the same opposition from residents and local government that has repeatedly stymied attempts to deal with the border crisis.

Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said the Obama administration appeared to be in panic mode.

“There’s zero coordination,” he said. “It’s obviously a crisis [for the administration] when they are looking at properties that have been abandoned by the federal government for over 20 years.”

The town’s concerns ran the gamut from public safety to infectious diseases to the short notice given town and county officials — the same fears and misgivings expressed in nearly every community confronted with housing young border jumpers.

Scrambling for somewhere to send the children and relieve overcrowded facilities in Texas and Arizona, the administration has faced widespread opposition and scrapped plans to send the children to Baltimore and Chicago, as well as Lawrenceville, Virginia, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

A half dozen cities and towns have managed to turn away feds trying to set up housing in their communities for some of the more than 57,000 children and teens that have arrived in the U.S. illegally so far this year, mostly coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

At least 90,000 children will be caught this year, and more than 140,000 will be apprehended next year, according to officials.

Until recently, just about 8,000 unaccompanied children per year entered the U.S.

“It hasn’t been handled. It’s been fumbled from the very beginning,” said Rep. Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania Republican, who helped oppose a plan to send hundreds of the kids to Hazleton. “The administration knew about this as far back as January.”

Critics blame President Obama for enticing illegal immigrants with lax deportation policies, but he maintains that rampant gang violence in Central America is driving the mass migration.

In Lawrenceville, a hardscrabble rural town about 70 miles south of Richmond, the administration last month was about to send 500 undocumented youths — mostly older teens — to a defunct college when fierce public outcry forced the feds to abruptly call it off.

After that, reports that HHS was eyeing another empty college campus in Bristol, Virginia, drew immediate and determined opposition from local officials. The administration did not pursue the idea further.

Earlier this month, angry residents in Murrieta, California, turned back busloads of illegal immigrant women and children being transported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for processing. After unyielding protests in the Southern California town, the administration announced last week that it will stop busing illegal immigrants to San Diego or El Centro.

HHS has turned over the housing search to the Pentagon, which identified the abandoned Army Reserve building in Westminster.

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