Deal: Talk to states before sending unaccompanied minors

Gov. Nathan Deal has sent a letter to ask the Obama administration to define the status of the Central American unaccompanied minors being held by federal authorities before asking private or state organizations in Georgia to take them in.

“The state of Georgia has received no guidance from the federal government about what it plans to do with these children, even though we’ve read news reports that federal agencies have touched base with private charitable organizations in the state,” Deal said. “Before any children are sent to Georgia, we need to know their federal status and the plan for returning them to their parents or guardians. We are particularly interested to know if the children will be classified as ‘refugees,’ which would entitle them to all social welfare benefits available to Americans. Between Medicaid and school enrollment, this would come with a large price tag for Georgia taxpayers, and that’s unacceptable. Georgia already holds a disproportionately large refugee community, and I’ve worked with Democratic state representatives who asked me to help deal with the challenges of large refugee communities lacking job and language skills needed for self-sufficiency. These challenges are compounded when the refugees are children here without their families.

“Just this week, we learned from a federal agency that – unknown to us – from Jan. 1 to June 30 the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement released 1,154 unaccompanied children to sponsors – typically a parent or other family relative – residing in Georgia. I have also heard from state legislators in certain areas of the state of a recent surge in school enrollment of children from Central America.

“Our hearts and sympathy go out to the children who are the victims of this humanitarian crisis. This should not have happened and would not have happened if not for the Obama administration’s ill-conceived immigration policies. Circumventing the rule of law leads to unintended consequences, and that’s certainly the case here.

“We all want to see these children safety returned to their home countries. Before the federal government asks states to take in children who don’t have a family to live with here, we need to get serious questions answered about the children’s federal status and the government’s short- and long-term plans for resolving this issue.”

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