A suburban monastery was under consideration to house thousands of undocumented immigrant children. But on Monday, that plan fell apart. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
Thousands of children who cross the United States border without their parents won't be housed in a former monastery in Olympia Fields. The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday said the facility on Governors Highway was no longer being considered as an option.
Following orders issued by President Barack Obama earlier this month, DHHS officials last week sent out a notice that the former monastery could be put to use as temporary housing for children while their relatives are located.
Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14) over the weekend called for those efforts to be stopped, arguing that moving the children to the facility in Chicago's south suburb would only make matters worse for the children while creating orphanages even farther away from their homes.
"These children, unaccompanied by their families and under the control of smugglers and trafficking organizations, don’t need a stop gap solution," he said Monday. "They should be returned to their home countries quickly and with human dignity, not left to languish in legal limbo."
Congressional candidate Eric Wallace, who lives near the Olympia Fields, expressed concern about how the children would be absorbed into the community.
"Who will pay for the care, lodging and feeding of the children who will be moved to Olympia Fields, farther and farther away from their parents in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras? Who will be responsible for this children without legal guardians?" Wallace asked, according to the conservative Illinois Review website. "Will it be the federal, state or village of Olympia Fields and local taxpayers?"
The president has called the arrivals of the more than 52,000 unaccompanied children a humanitarian situation for the U.S. About three-fourths of the children came from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and the rest from Mexico, according to Border Patrol data.
Border officials can return children from Mexico if they determine their lives are not in danger. But children from countries that don’t border the U.S. must be processed in 72 hours and then sent to temporary shelters while parents or guardians are located and deportation proceedings are started, NBCNews.com explained.
"I repeat the call to send the National Guard to the border," said Hultgren. "If this truly is a humanitarian crisis as the president has said, we need to support our Border Patrol which is overwhelmed by this influx of immigrant children."