PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal officials say a relatively small number of the unaccompanied immigrant children who have been flooding into the United States from Central America have been sent to Oregon, Washington state and Idaho over the past six months.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 50 immigrant children were released to sponsors in Oregon, 211 in Washington state, and 8 in Idaho between January 1 and July 7. Sponsors can include relatives, family friends or foster parents.
Prior to January, Oregon also received unaccompanied children into a foster care program run by Morrison Child and Family Services, a Portland-based nonprofit.
That program is now expanding — Morrison received nearly $3.7 million this year from the federal government to house unaccompanied immigrant minors, according to an online government database. In total, the nonprofit has received nearly $16.5 million in grants since 2010 for its residential services for unaccompanied children.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the state welcomes the children and that the border surge was a reminder of Congress’ failure to enact immigration reform.
“These children are fleeing their homelands because of overwhelming violence and economic hardship, and they do not deserve to become political fodder,” Kitzhaber said. “Oregon has been a welcoming home to unaccompanied minors and refugee children, and will continue to be so while we wait on Congress to adopt more responsible immigration policies.”
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter asked the U.S. Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday not to send any children to his state, which has received eight this year.
“It should be understood that the state of Idaho and its subdivisions will not be actively involved in addressing the humanitarian crisis the federal government has created,” Otter, a Republican, wrote. “Idaho will not open itself to the unwelcome challenges with which other states have struggled at the federal government’s hands.”
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office is monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Jamie Smith said.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, has been in consideration as a place to house children, but no final decision has been made. The base’s neighboring communities have voiced concerns and support for the potential of children arriving.
About 57,000 minors, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, crossed into the U.S. since October. More than 30,000 have been released to sponsors throughout the U.S.
California, Florida, New York and Texas were the states that received the most children in the past half year. Those four states account for 46 percent of the children released to sponsors.