As President Barack Obama grapples with how to shelter tens of thousands of illegal child immigrants from Central America, communities are fighting attempts by federal officials to relocate them to their towns, The New York Times
The public mood against illegal immigrants has also worsened, in some cases manifesting in armed protests and graffiti, as local residents fight plans for opening shelters in their areas.
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Officials have already been forced to scrap plans for shelters in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Virginia and other states, while some towns in Texas
have taken pre-emptive steps to block relocations, passing ordinances banning newly arrived immigrants from being placed in their communities.
A range of concerns have been cited, mainly focused on health and crime. Federal officials insist the migrant children do not pose a public health risk. But Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Baptist Child and Family Services who runs the shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, told the Times there had already been 133 cases of lice, 25 cases of scabies, 15 cases of chickenpox, and one case of H1N1 flu since May.
Others are angered that public funds are being diverted toward illegal migrants and the possibility of them receiving government entitlements and medical care, overwhelming the public school system, in addition to the costs of the shelters.
"That's my tax money taking care of a foreign national or however you want to classify them," Gregg Griffith, a Texas volunteer fireman and researcher at a chemical plant, told the Times. "I don’t want to take care of a foreign national. It's not my problem. We did house kids in Brazoria County there at the youth home. I sort of feel like we should be taking care of our own first."
Meanwhile, the most recent Pew Hispanic Research Center poll appears to confirm a change in heart toward the immigration issue as the crisis has escalated. Since February, support for giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status has fallen from 73 percent to 68 percent, The Wall Street Journal
"The public is taking a cautious approach. There is a sense the process should speed up, even if it means that some eligible for asylum get deported," Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research, told the Journal.
The survey also found that the public feels more strongly about the need to pass immigration reform legislation. About 61 percent of Republicans and independents say passage of new immigration reform legislation is extremely important, an increase from 46 percent and 44 percent, respectively, in February. Sixty-three percent of Democrats said this month they support new legislation compared with 60 percent in February, the survey found, according to the Journal.
Some of the anger also appears to be directed about the way the administration is handling the crisis, and some Republicans have blamed the sudden influx directly on Obama for giving the message that minors would not be deported.
"I do have empathy for these kids, but I also don't want to send the signal, 'Send your kids to America illegally' — that's not the right message," Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad told the Times. "Just because we're an empathetic and supportive country doesn't mean that we can take everybody."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Control continues to be overwhelmed by the challenges of processing new arrivals. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the Rio Grande Valley detainment center is overcrowded, the "air fetid with body odor," and people are overflowing from cells onto the floor in hallways, as agents receive and attempt to process roughly 900 migrants a day.
A 2008 federal law that aimed to protect children from human trafficking requires that the federal government place minor migrants with sponsors in the United States while they await court deportation hearings, though Mexican and Canadian illegal immigrants are deported immediately.
The president has requested
$3.7 billion in emergency funds, $1.8 billion of which would be designated to open and run shelters, and has signaled he is willing to overturn the current law to facilitate swift deportations, but Republicans are challenging the proposal.
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