Gov. McCrory Says Info Lacking On Relocated Children
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina officials know too little about a stream of unaccompanied children who have crossed the Mexican border and ended up in the state, Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday in pleading with federal officials for more information.
McCrory called a news conference to complain about a lack of details from the federal government about the roughly 1,200 unaccompanied children who were relocated with a sponsor in North Carolina in the first half of the year through early July. The governor said the number was far outpacing last year's totals and threatens to impact care for state residents who depend on social services.
There's been an influx of tens of thousands of children crossing the border into the U.S. illegally since last year to flee violence in Central America countries.
"At a minimum we want to know who are they are, where they're going and who their sponsors are," McCrory said, adding "I'm concerned for these children, but I'm also concerned about North Carolina citizens."
McCrory and other governors have raised concerns about stretched government services to care for the children. The issue has spilled into gubernatorial campaigns in states where some children have been kept at emergency shelters until they connect with their sponsor. No such holding centers have been located in North Carolina, McCrory said.
But the governor said the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement has provided hardly anything beyond the raw numbers of children that have relocated to the state. The health status and immunization records of the children also are needed for their treatment in emergency rooms and to protect other citizens from communicable diseases, he said.
Kenneth Wolfe, an HHS spokesman in Washington on children's matters, said by email the children in the federal program that cares for them are given well-child exams and "given all needed childhood vaccinations."
"Children with serious health conditions are treated at local hospitals," Wolfe wrote. "The cost of this care is fully paid by the federal government."
Potential sponsors are supposed to undergo background checks before taking charge of the children. McCrory questioned how scrutinized the sponsors were and worried whether some children may be placed in abusive situations.
"I feel very strongly that these children could be put in more harm's way than the conditions in which they came from," he said. He also questioned whether the sponsors are returning the children, who entered the country unlawfully, to overloaded immigration courts, like the one in Charlotte, for their ultimate return to their home country.
McCrory said he and other governors spoke to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell about the immigrant issue last month at a National Governors Association meeting.
Congress failed to agree on legislation that attempted to resolve the young immigrant crisis at the border and left for its August recess. McCrory said President Barack Obama and legislators should cancel their vacations and stay in Washington, D.C., to fix the border problems.
"This is not the time to wait another two or three months," he said. "This is a time for action."
A Latino advocacy group in North Carolina criticized McCrory for what it called his "continued misguided attempts to address federal immigration issues" by criticizing federal authorities, rather than effective ways to integrate immigrants into the state.
McCrory "is sending a clear message that immigrants, even children who are fleeing violence, are unwelcome in North Carolina," El Pueblo Executive Director Angeline Echeverría said in a release.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., defended McCrory in his own statement and blamed Obama and Senate Democrats for failing to support the House Republican border legislation.