Lawmakers to visit child refugee program at Bethany Christian Services

Posted at 5:23 AM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 05:24:25-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A handful of Congress Members met with officials at Bethany Christian Services Thursday morning to discuss the future of undocumented immigrant children who have been separated from their families.

The Michigan Congressmen took a tour of the facility before talking with officials from the organization about their plans to reunify separated children with their families.

We're told the Grand Rapids-based organization is helping as many as 50 kids who have been separated from their families.

Congressmen Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Dan Kildee (MI-5)  joined other lawmakers and meet with leaders of the organization and get a tour of the facility.

"They have seen a very, very large difference in the children that have been coming in in the last few months, the trauma level," says Rep. Dingell.

Their visit comes almost a week after two Congressmen from Michigan were turned away from visiting Bethany last week.

Both congressmen Bill Huizenga and Tim Walberg say they were given clearance to visit the center and then were turned away by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Rep. Huizenga was able to tour Bethany Thursday morning with other representatives and discuss the possibility of reuniting the children with their families with a Tuesday deadline in sight.

"I think it will be difficult to certainly have everybody unified what I can tell you is that there are massive efforts underway with social workers who are trying to make these connections happen," says Rep. Huizenga.

Though the lawmakers did not agree on everything, a solution to get the children housed by Bethany back into the arms of their parents is one the representatives say they'll have to come up with together, regardless of party affiliation.

"We need to do exactly what Democrats and Republicans should do in a situation like this and that's coming together and fix this problem," says Rep. Tim Ryan, D-OH.

Bethany Christian Services also released a statement following the lawmakers' visit today:

“Our primary focus remains ensuring that children separated from asylum seeking families are reunified with their families. We also continue to hold conversations with a number of elected officials to further inform them of how our 20 plus years of work in this space has provided us with the know-how required to support children and families in crisis even after reunification. Collectively we hope to continue to partner with churches, community organizations and elected officials to advocate for legislative change so this crisis doesn’t happen again. It is by working together that we can truly make a difference in the lives of these children.”

The representatives were told that Bethany knows where all of the parents of the children in their care currently are and that they children are able to speak with their parents every two weeks.

We will of course continue to update you on this story as it develops.