- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The mayor of Syracuse asked President Barack Obama on Thursday to speed along the approval process to provide a local shelter for young Central American migrants surging across the border.

Mayor Stephanie Miner wrote a letter to the president saying the city and its leaders welcome the chance to provide shelter to the children. She requested a partnership between the federal government and Syracuse to expedite the administration’s review of a potential shelter at a former convent that could house between 100 and 200 children.

She noted that the central New York city of 144,000 has a rich immigrant tradition and has welcomed people from South Sudan and elsewhere.

“It’s something that we have done in the past and we’re very proud of and we want to continue to do,” Miner told The Associated Press. “But also, these are children, and it’s hard to watch this and think that saying anything other than, ‘Let’s give them shelter in this humanitarian storm,’ it seems to us to be the appropriate way to respond to it.”

Miner said she has had positive conversations with community leaders, including the local bishop, the Syracuse University chancellor and the president of Le Moyne College.

Her offer comes amid hostility or doubts about shelters in some communities across the country, including confrontations between anti-immigration activists and federal authorities. On Tuesday, protesters carrying “Return to Sender” and “Go home non-Yankees” signs faced off with immigrant rights activists in Oracle, Arizona.

Other communities have supported shelter sites. The largest public entity is Texas’ Dallas County. Despite receiving hate mail and even death threats, County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, has offered the federal government the use of three facilities for up to a year with a cumulative 2,000 beds that would see turnover every 30 days or so, potentially sheltering many thousands of unaccompanied minors at some point during their court processing.

The small Southern California city of Bell is planning to shelter 125 kids. And a Des Moines-based grassroots group wants to relocate 1,000 unaccompanied migrant kids in Iowa, but Gov. Terry Branstad has said he does not want federal officials to send Central American children to his state.

The Border Patrol says 57,525 unaccompanied children had been apprehended through the end of June. The agency has been dealing with an influx of unaccompanied children and parents traveling with young children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Children who traveled alone must be transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of their arrest. From there, they are sent into a network of shelters until they can be reunited with family members while awaiting their day in immigration court.

Federal authorities have been reviewing a number of potential sites in New York.

In the Rochester suburb of Greece, town Supervisor William Reilich said Thursday residents are still concerned after HHS evidently abandoned plans last month to house several hundred children in a 90,000-square-foot warehouse he considered unsuited for housing.

As in other communities, Reilich said he has received emails from residents concerned about the immunization status of the immigrant children and whether a sudden influx will strain local schools.

The latest plan, he said, involves placing 60 children in trailers at a juvenile detention facility in town.

But the same questions remain and Reilich said he has gotten no information from federal authorities.

“To put a community at ease, they’re doing a poor job of that,” he said.


Associated Press writer Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this report.

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