WI no longer being considered to provide shelters for undocumented children


By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — It appears as though state Rep. David Craig, R-Vernon, doesn’t need to continue his pursuit of local housing plans for unaccompanied child immigrants.

At least for now.

ON HOLD: Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Kathleen Falk says Wisconsin is no longer being considered at this time to shelter undocumented children.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Kathleen Falk informed several Wisconsin officials late last week the federal agency is no longer looking for temporary shelters for undocumented minors.

“The number of unaccompanied children apprehended and in Customs and Border Protection custody has fallen, while the number of children HHS is releasing to appropriate sponsors as their immigration cases proceed has increased,” Falk says in a letter obtained by Wisconsin Reporter.

But Falk says the situation at the Mexican border is fluid, and it’s too early to tell whether the initial signs of progress would remain.

“Looking forward, there remains substantial uncertainty about future flows of unaccompanied children,” Falk said.

The Rev. David Bergner of the Milwaukee chapter of Catholic Charities, which had been asked by the federal government to locate temporary shelters, attributes part of the lull in minors crossing the Mexican border to extreme heat and a major train derailment.

“My sense is that it will pick up again when travel conditions are more conducive … and it will probably continue until something substantive is done in the countries of origin,” said Bergner, who is keeping in close contact with a person assisting at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The Obama administration estimates it will catch close to 90,000 minors without parents trying to illegally cross the Mexican border by the end of the current budget year in September. Many children and teenagers, most of whom are from Central America, are fleeing their home countries because of gang violence and dangers associated with the drug trade.

Catholic Charities, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin were contacted by the federal government over the past several weeks to find temporary shelters for up to 550 unaccompanied child immigrants.

At least 50 undocumented minors already have been placed in the care of parents or relatives in Wisconsin since Jan. 1, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Craig filed open records requests July 28 with Barrett and Soglin, both Democrats, because he says the Obama administration and local government officials have been secretive about the subject.

But Jessica Ward, Craig’s spokeswoman, told Wisconsin Reporter before Falk’s letter went public the state representative wasn’t going to pay Barrett’s office close to $50 an hour to pull the records because the proposed fee is “ridiculous and deliberately high without justification.”

Craig had not gotten a response from Soglin’s office as of Friday.