ALBION, Mich. — 1,500 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, more than 100 migrant children are sheltering in Albion, Michigan.
Starr Commonwealth is one of several emergency intake sites, established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to deal with a sharp increase of unaccompanied minors at the border.
The situation is starting to impact local law enforcement agencies.
“Let me start off by saying this has been a fantastic relationship; we’ve had great communication, but this is surrounding funding,” said Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley while testifying in front of members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
While Hinkley says they are happy to help the humanitarian effort, the situation is causing unnecessary and unforeseen stress on local authorities, as there’s a lack of funding to ensure all state laws are met in order to properly look after the kids.
“They initially asked for a community services officer to be on the campus, to be plugged in, and then they found out there is absolutely no funding to make that happen,” Hinkley said. “Our intent was to make sure that all state law guidelines were being met with these children. Everyone had the same goal here for success; we just did not have the funding to make it happen,” he added.
Hinkley tells lawmakers it’s local, not federal law enforcement who will deal with most, if not all situations, involving the children and the facility, and a lack of planning on the feds' side could be to blame.
“Were you under the impression that these were well-developed plans, or something that was put together in haste?” U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) questioned.
“It was very, very unexpected. If we had to do this over again, I would’ve rather had this conversation a month out so we could establish plans and how federal laws interact with state laws to ensure everything was taken care of. It just didn’t happen,” Hinkley answered.
“It was very unexpected, and when you’re in the middle of a budget cycle for your own department and you’re asked to provide more services without the funding to make it happen, it’s a crisis here at our agency trying to make sure all needs are met,” he added.
Right now, HHS has more than 21,000 kids in custody at facilities across the nation.