- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

VASSAR, Mich. (AP) - A counterprotest has emerged in a small Michigan community where people have been rallying against a social services organization’s proposal to house child immigrants from Central America.

Two groups of protesters stood on opposite sides of the Cass River on Monday, carrying signs and seeking honks of support from passing drivers in Vassar, about 70 miles northwest of Detroit, The Saginaw News reported (https://bit.ly/1jSVbWc ).

The proposal’s opponents, who have held at least two previous protests, carried U.S. flags and two people wore guns strapped to their hips. Michigan State Police troopers and Vassar police officers monitored the crowd.

The other group that rallied Monday doesn’t have a stance on whether the children should be housed at Wolverine Human Services’ 145-bed Pioneer Work and Learn Center, but it wants more discussion on the issue. They flashed peace signs and held signs that read “Vassar Pride.”

“We are uninviting them,” Tina Hawkins of Vassar said of requesting that the group opposing the proposal leave. “Let us work it out.”

Demonstrations have been taking place following the proposal from Grosse Pointe Park-based Wolverine Human Services, which said it wants to enter into a contract allowing a facility to house children who fled violence in their home countries. Many of the more than 57,000 young people fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Tamyra Murray, an organizer for Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement who lives in nearby Denmark Township, has led the protests against the proposal. Murray, who said she has children and grandchildren who live in Vassar, said the youths from Central America shouldn’t be allowed in Vassar.

In the state capital, some religious leaders and activists want Lansing to declare a welcoming place for child immigrants from Central America. A news conference is planned for Wednesday to discuss the effort. Maximo Anguiano, an activist with Action of Greater Lansing, said in a statement that the children are “escaping a situation that is not their fault.”

Wolverine Human Services is reviewing a contract to maintain a shelter for male unaccompanied minors ages 12 to 17. That could increase to 120 after an initial 60 arrive, the organization has said. Under the plans, the children would stay at the facility for up to four weeks, receiving vaccinations and medical care, counseling, life skills development and etiquette training. Vassar Public Schools would offer English as a second language programs.

Federal funds would pay for the children to stay at the facility.


Information from: The Saginaw News, https://www.mlive.com/saginaw



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