Immigration attorney: Undocumented children in Michigan is nothing new

Posted at 9:25 PM, Jul 24, 2014

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As undocumented children continue to make their way into the United States from Central America, FOX 17 has been reporting about the proposal in the works that could allow some of those refugees to be housed at a facility in a small town in Michigan.

Wolverine Human Services in Vassar, Mich. near Saginaw is currently in talks of receiving a contract to have 60 to 120 beds in its shelter used for temporary housing of unaccompanied teenagers aged 12 to 17.

It's a proposal that's been met with opposition and many wondering if some of those children could eventually make their way to West Michigan.

Susan Reed, supervising attorney with the Michigan Immigration Rights Center based out of Kalamazoo says refugees are already in West Michigan, and have been quite some time.

"It's not a new idea, and especially in West Michigan there's really a long and I think very beautiful history of working on refugee resettlement issues," Reed said.

Michigan for years has housed two of the nation's roughly 100 permanent unaccompanied alien children program shelters: Lutheran Social Services in Lansing and Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids.

So far this year, just under 100 unaccompanied children have been sent to a program in Michigan, according to a director with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It's a number Reed says is average, and even with more than 50,000 children from Central America taken into custody at the border since October, she adds it's not likely very many will be sent to West Michigan.

"Because we have a relatively small Central American community (in West Michigan), I'm not anticipating an overwhelming impact," she said.

Representatives with Bethany Christian Services declined to comment on the current border crisis and how many refugees that anticipated receiving. Meanwhile, faith leaders across the state are asking for a day of prayer this Sunday for unaccompanied children coming to the U.S.