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Denver headed into center of undocumented immigrant minors controversy

Published time: July 19, 2014 03:49
A Honduran child, who will be accompanied by his family when they travel to reach northern Mexico or the U.S. (Reuters / Jorge Lopez)

A Honduran child, who will be accompanied by his family when they travel to reach northern Mexico or the U.S. (Reuters / Jorge Lopez)

To the surprise of at least a couple of Denver City Council members, their city is plunging itself headfirst into the national immigration debate by applying to house some of the undocumented minors flooding into the United States.

According to theDenver Post, the city has applied for a three-year grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement that would allow it to care for some children in its Family Crisis Center. The facility is capable of housing 54 children, offering interim shelter for kids while the Denver Department of Human Services determines where to place them.

Should the city gain approval, Mayor Michael Hancock believes it’s likely that Denver would take in some of the children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras who are entering the United States illegally through the Mexican border.

The application caused a stir from local lawmakers, some of which told the Post that they did not even know the city was looking for such permission.

"My jaw wouldn't be on the floor if I had any inkling," said City Council member Jeanne Faatz. "I didn't know anything about it … From an individual basis, your heart goes out to every child. But this isn't the way to handle a crisis."

Despite some criticism from conservative and anti-immigrant groups – one local talk radio host compared housing undocumented minors in shelters across the US to the establishment of “sanctuary cities” – Hancock released a statement promoting the application.

"In Denver, we care about kids," the mayor said. "The work of departments like DHS is how we answer the call to serve. In this case, the federal government is trying to place refugee children with family members. And while we have not yet been asked, we recognize that we are likely to have relatives in our community who will want to take in their young family members."

Anti-immigration activist Judy Lairmore holds a sign during a protest along Mt. Lemmon Road in anticipation of buses carrying illegal immigrants on July 15, 2014 in Oracle, Arizona. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Sandy Huffaker)

News of Denver’s grant application also comes in the wake of several anti-immigrant protests throughout the US. As RT reported earlier this week, at least 50 people gathered in Vassar, Michigan, on Monday to express their outrage against a government proposal to house 12- to 17-year-old immigrants at a local shelter. Some protesters showed up bearing rifles and handguns, while others criticized the federal government for lax border security.

Meanwhile, anti-immigrant protests are also scheduled to unfold across the United States over the next two days. In a coordinated campaign organized by several groups, participants will gather at state capitals, Mexican consulates, and detention centers housing some of the minors to express their opposition.

In some cases, both pro and anti-immigrant sides have clashed at the same location, as in Murrieta, California, where more than 150 activists converged in early July. While opponents claim that all undocumented minors should be deported, supporters claim they should be considered refugees as part of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.