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Emanuel works with Chicago agencies to help migrant kids

Thu, Sep 11, 2014

Mayor Rahm Emanu¬el’s administration an¬nounced July 28 that it has consulted with the federal govern¬ment and is working with local orga¬nizations to aid hundreds of unaccom¬panied child migrants traveling from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing humani¬tarian crisis we can no longer ignore,” Mayor Emanuel said. “While we have our own challenges at home, we can¬not turn our backs on children who are fleeing dangerous conditions. We will do our part to ensure that these chil¬dren are given access to services and treated fairly and humanely.”

Earlier in July, the federal govern¬ment approached the Emanuel admin¬istration about the possibility of a fed¬erally-funded facility containing 1,000 beds. The federal General Services Ad¬ministration (GSA) would oversee and fund the facilities while the Depart¬ment of Health and Human Services (HHS) would fund support services, including education, health care, food, security, and legal assistance.

In response, the Emanuel adminis¬tration is consulting with organiza¬tions such as Heartland Alliance, the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. Both the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which will partner with the City, praised the effort.

Monsignor Michael Boland, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, said the agency was ready to work with the City to pro¬vide counseling, food and clothing, case management, legal assistance and hous¬ing “with the dignity, care and compas¬sion that every person deserves.”

To expand the capacity of organiza¬tions such as the National Immigration Justice Center to spearhead a citywide pro bono effort, the City is supporting an application by Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit focused on providing public interest legal assistance, for a Department of Justice grant that would bring several additional attorneys to work with the NIJC in Chicago.

The federal government will rehabili¬tate selected sites and the City will work with stakeholders toward welcoming the first group of child migrants by the end of 2014. Between October 1, 2013 and June 15, 2014, over 52,000 chil¬dren were apprehended at the southwest border; an estimated 70,500 children are expected to be detained there this year. Previously, an average of 7,000 -8,000 child migrants made this trip each year.

The majority of these children come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Sal¬vador. According to a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sur¬vey of 404 unaccompanied children, 58 percent “were forcibly displaced be¬cause they suffered or faced harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international protection.”

By Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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