CHICAGO (AP) — Federal officials say 305 unaccompanied children caught at the U.S.-Mexico border were placed with Illinois sponsors this year, but officials say hundreds more could be at shelters.
“I just think we really need to take care of our own children,” said Edwardsville resident Brian Johnson. “They have to come before other country’s children. It’s not good what’s going on down there, but we have to worry about home.”
The country faces a sharp rise in unaccompanied minors. They’re placed at government shelters and then released to sponsors as they go through deportation proceedings. Often, sponsors are family members.
The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance contracts with the federal government for area shelters and legal services. The group doesn’t make shelter locations public for safety reasons.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S southern border in recent weeks and tens of thousands more are expected to be coming.
“We have to consider how we are going to house, how we are going to clothe, and how we are going to provide medical benefits,” said Rep. Dwight Kay in Edwardsville, Il.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families says 305 children were released to Illinois sponsors from Jan. 1 through July 7.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois says federal data released to his office shows 429 were in shelters on July 8.
The Secretary of Defense has also offered to house more unaccompanied immigrant children.