Gov. Nathan Deal Meets with Hispanic Leaders, Has Softer Tone on Immigrant Kids

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    Several days after firing off a scathing letter to President Obama for having federal agencies transport over a thousand illegal immigrant kids to Georgia without notifying him, Gov. Nathan Deal strikes a much more subdued tone in meetings with Hispanic leaders.

    Deal promises to exemplify “compassion” but promises to follow federal guidelines in deciding whether to keep some or return the children to their home countries in Central America and other places.

    “Today’s productive meeting served as a follow up to last week’s letter to the Obama administration,” said Deal. “In Georgia, we’re trying to find out who’s here, where are they staying and what their federal status is. I asked the group for information they are gathering in the community, and I asked them for guidance and advice on how they think the state should respond. The group reported that there’s strong evidence that these children are staying with family members and foster families through placement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They pointed out that the families must agree to cover the child’s financial needs, and the group discussed the unique needs and challenges some of the children would bring to a school district in Georgia. Certainly, we all want these children to stay in homes where they are safe and provided for while they are awaiting their immigration hearings before a federal judge.

    Deal said he some of the children’s stories of survival were poignant enough to reconsider keeping some here in the state.

    “That federal process will result in many of these children returning to their families in their home countries, while others may receive refugee status,” he said. “I was particularly touched by one example discussed today where such an action seems appropriate. One member of the group told me of a 2-year-old from Central America whose parents were killed in gang violence. The child’s grandparents, who are legal residents of the United States, brought the child immediately to their home – as any loving grandparents would. We’re hopeful the process will work efficiently and the courts can quickly decide who needs to stay and who needs to be returned to their families in their home countries.”

    Now that the fallout has settled, he asked for patience and understanding of Hispanic families and guardians.

    “In order for the state to safeguard these children who are here now, we still need more information about their federal status and where they’re staying,” said Deal. “It goes without saying, these situations involve our public education, public health and public safety resources, and I’m concerned about additional burdens being placed on local taxpayers in Georgia. But I made this pledge to the group: As a state we will let the federal process work. And during the time it takes to accomplish that, I’m sure Georgians will show their compassion toward these children who have undergone harrowing circumstances.”

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