- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Some Hispanic and civil rights activists in Nebraska say the thousands of children who have been crossing the U.S.-Mexican border are refugees from violence, not immigrants who should be summarily returned.

The activists criticized Nebraska’s state and congressional leaders who on Monday formally asked federal officials for information about the more than 200 children who have been placed in the state.

Shirl A. Mora James, a Lincoln civil rights and immigration attorney, told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1soa9WS ) on Tuesday that the children are refugees from Central American countries “that have the highest murder rates in the world.”

Federal authorities expect that by the end of 2014, up to 90,000 unaccompanied immigrant children will have crossed the border, the majority coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Director Max Graves of the Center for Legal Immigration Assistance in Lincoln described several situations that he’s familiar with involving immigrant children, including that of a teenager who arrived a few months ago. The boy had been abandoned by his parents when he was 5, and survived on the streets until he fled so he could live with an uncle in Nebraska.

The center is helping the boy and other children in immigration proceedings, Graves said.

In Monday’s letter, Gov. Dave Heineman, U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns, and U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith and Lee Terry, all Republicans, asked for the names of the 200-plus children, as well as their identification numbers and dates; their sponsors’ names and addresses; and the immigration status of their sponsors.

“While we fully support the humane care and treatment of those individuals who have already been placed within our state, such care should be through private - and not taxpayer-funded - resources,” the letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.

Lincoln activist Jose Soto offered his home to children while their status is being evaluated.

“I was a little disappointed the plight of these young kids was politicized,” he said. “I don’t see the value of calling attention to their situation in that manner and talking about deportation without knowing what their situation or status really is.

“It is a humanitarian issue, not a political issue for me,” Soto said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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