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August 01. 2014 9:54PM

13 undocumented children in NH

MANCHESTER — The federal government has released 13 undocumented children, who were part of a flood of 57,000 unaccompanied Central American children crossing the southwest border of the United States illegally since last October, to “sponsors” in New Hampshire since Jan. 1, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The revelation was a surprise to state and local officials who said the federal government placed the children without notifying state agencies.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” state Senate President Charles “Chuck” Morse, R-Salem, said Friday night. “I’m very concerned about it. We have 13 people show up in New Hampshire we don’t even know are here. It’s not right.”

“This is an issue that is infuriating people,” Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said Friday night. “How do you just send them without telling anybody?”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement provides a running list on its website, which can be found at here.

It is updated the first week of each month. All 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, have had sponsors take in the children. The most, 4,280, are in Texas. Montana has the fewest, with a single child being sent to the Big Sky state, according to the list.

William Hinkle, press secretary for Gov. Maggie Hassan, said the governor was not informed before the children were placed with sponsor family members.

He said the federal government was following a 2008 anti-trafficking law saying children from Central America cannot be deported immediately and compels the federal Department of Health and Human Services to provide the children with shelter and then a sponsor, all without notifying state officials.

Children are “placed with a relative or other sponsor in the U.S. pending outcome of the immigration process,” according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“Governor Hassan is glad that the children are safe in the care of family members,” Hinkle said. “As a national issue, the governor believes that Congress should work together to find a bipartisan solution to America’s immigration issues and to ensure that no children are put in a dangerous situation.”

But other state officials were not pleased at being kept in the dark.

“None” was how much notice Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said he received. “I heard a rumor, that was all.”

Gatsas said he was concerned by the lack of information, partly from a health perspective. He said that when the city is asked to accept refugees, the refugees are given a medical check, including inoculations, so local officials can be sure of no public health risk.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement states that: “Before children are released to a sponsor, they receive vaccinations and medical screenings. We do not release any children who have a contagious condition.”

Gatsas said there is no way for local officials to know for sure.

“We don’t know anything about these children,” he said. “We don’t even know where they are.”

Media reports from other states have found similar surprise and anger from state officials.

“Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama and reported by Fox News.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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