Emanuel says to boost shelter space for child migrants
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[July 29, 2014]
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago will set
up additional shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children to be funded
by the federal government and run by local charities, Mayor Rahm Emanuel
said on Monday.
Increasing numbers of children, mostly from crime-plagued
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are crossing into the United
States from Mexico, and shelters near the border are strained. Some
of the children are immediately flown home to Central America, but
immigration authorities send most of them to temporary shelters in
cities around the United States until they are placed with family
members while they await deportation proceedings that can last for
While some cities - such as Escondido, California and Oracle,
Arizona - have resisted efforts to set up temporary shelters for
unaccompanied minor immigrants, officials in other cities are more
welcoming. Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins has offered federal authorities
empty buildings in a risky political move as he faces re-election in
Increasing shelter space for minors is not seen as putting Democrat
Emanuel in any political jeopardy, although some community groups in
Chicago have criticized President Barack Obama's proposal to
increase spending on immigration measures rather than on programs
for struggling neighborhoods in Chicago.
"The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing
humanitarian crisis that we can no longer ignore," said Emanuel in
the statement. "While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot
turn our backs on children who are fleeing dangerous conditions. We
will do our part to ensure that these children are given access to
services and treated fairly and humanely."
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Chicago already has nine shelters that house several hundred
immigrant children on a short-term basis.
One of the most pressing needs for the children is legal aid as many
of them try to argue that they should be granted asylum because they
would face danger or persecution if sent back home. Without a lawyer
it can be difficult to establish grounds for asylum or for special
immigration status for neglected children.
Emanuel said that Chicago would expand legal aid services - through
a network of pro bono lawyers from big firms - to meet the demands
of the rising population in the new shelter.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz)
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