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Rightwing Opponents Target Shelter Sites for Migrant Children

Federal officials searching for safe housing for immigrant kids

Members of the South Central Farm attending the immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles, California on May Day, 2006. The banner, in Spanish, reads "No human being is illegal".  (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Cities and towns across the country are responding to the influx of migrant children from Central America, with some offering safe haven and others saying: Not In My Backyard.

The federal government is reaching out to state officials, seeking places to safely house the tens of thousands of children coming across the U.S.-Mexico border. Some, like Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, are amenable to helping; others, like Iowa governor Terry Branstad, are not

While xenophobic protests in Arizona and California continue to rage, the crisis has reached far beyond the border states, with elected officials and residents as far away as Michigan and Maryland weighing in.

According to Thursday's New York Times:

Overwhelmed by an influx of unaccompanied minors who are fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America, federal officials are searching the country for places to house them and have been forced to scrap some proposed shelter sites in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York and other states because of widespread opposition from residents and local officials.

Such opposition has taken a frightening turn; protesters in Vassar, Michigan this week carried AR-15s and handguns as part of their demonstration.

Some have claimed that the children pose a public health threat.

But the Times quotes Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Baptist Child and Family Services (BCFS), which runs shelters for Central American children in three states: “The illnesses that we’re seeing at these sites are not unlike what public school nurses see. We do not believe that these children present any public health concern.”

Others have more humanitarian concerns, pointing out that some proposed shelter sites—such as a former Army Reserve Center in Maryland that lacks security or running water—are hardly "hospitable," as Kimberly Propeack, an attorney with the immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland, put it.

Meanwhile, the Texas-based Migrant Clinicians Network is advocating a different solution: Foster homes. "Care of these children is a humanitarian need that transcends political affiliations," a statement reads. "There is an urgent need for families to host these children in the foster system rather than to keep them in makeshift detention centers."

Follow #ImmigrantChildren on Twitter to see what people are saying about this issue:

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