Posted: Thursday, July 31st 2014 at 1:35pm
English-speaking media kept out of Deal's meeting about migrant children
ATLANTA - Less than a week after firing off a letter to the White House regarding the issue, Gov. Nathan Deal met Wednesday with Latino community leaders from Georgia to discuss state’s role in migrant children crisis. Afterward Deal said the state will show compassion and follow the rule of law.
Meanwhile, WSB-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1zzcyiA ) that Deal opened Wednesday's meeting only to Spanish-speaking media outlets.
Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor, told The Associated Press in an email Thursday that the issue is important to all Georgians, but has even deeper resonance in the Latino community so the governor wanted to speak directly to that community.
“Today’s productive meeting served as a follow up to last week’s letter to the Obama administration,” the governor said in a news release issued after Wedbesday's meeting. “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."
Deal said 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.
“That federal process will result in many of these children returning to their families in their home countries, while others may receive refugee status."
Deal said he was particularly touched by one example discussed Wednesday 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," Deal said. "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."
But Deal added, “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. 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."
However, the governor says he "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.”
In his July 24 letter to President Obama, Deal said he was shocked to learn from federal officials this week that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had sent 1,154 unaccompanied children to sponsors - typically a parent or other relative - in Georgia between Jan. 1 and the end of June.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
Link: Deal to Obama: tell us status of unaccompanied minors
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