- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota Democratic congressman is leading efforts to bring to the state more unaccompanied children who’ve fled Central America for the U.S.

However, immigration advocates and nonprofit groups that serve refugees are concerned Minnesota might not be able to handle a crush of children who need care and have complex legal issues.

Rep. Keith Ellison says Minnesota is as well-equipped as any other state to handle the children. The Democratic congressman has been a leader in the national push for immigration reform.

“We have capacity to help here and we should,” Ellison said Monday at a community meeting at a nonprofit that serves Latinos in Minneapolis.

Alicia Bauers, a case manager for children’s mental health services at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, questions that capacity, saying it’s difficult to provide basic services for immigrants already in the state, according to the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/UlCG0M ).

“I’ve had a waitlist for my caseload for two years,” she said. “We want to provide services . but they can’t even get to see me.”

Gov. Mark Dayton said he’s expecting a request from Ellison and others asking for state resources.

“This thing is unfolding rapidly, and the federal response is still being determined. I would have to know where it’d fit in, what it would cost and where we would have sites potentially available,” Dayton said.

Tens of thousands of Central Americans, many unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, leaving federal and state governments scrambling to find shelter and resources for the children.

The matter has broader political overtones in the upcoming election, where one of Dayton’s challengers is demanding that the state not lend any assistance.

GOP candidate Scott Honour last week urged Dayton to “let the president know that Minnesota is not the place to send these kids.”

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $3.7 billion to expand border security, add immigration judges and care for the 57,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived since last fall.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com