WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The federal government has placed with Delaware families 117 children who illegally immigrated alone across the southern U.S. border, Gov. Jack Markell says.
The Democratic governor disclosed the development in a letter Thursday to state legislative leaders. He told the lawmakers "we are called upon to provide for the least of our brothers and sisters."
Markell wrote that his administration was prepared to work with nonprofits to ensure that the basic needs of child migrants are met. He said the children may enroll in Delaware public schools while awaiting immigration processing, but stressed that the federal government should work with states to cover the cost of any public services, assistance or medical care the children receive.
In a separate letter to Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Markell wrote that state governments are not being told the names or locations of the children, making it difficult for state governments to ensure they receive services.
"As a result, the federal government should be principally responsible for ensuring that the children receive needed services once placed here. Federal support for these costs can help ensure that these children are receiving appropriate nutrition, health care and other needed services," he wrote.
Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, who had expressed concern about the cost of providing services to child migrants, told The News-Journal of Wilmington that he's glad the governor disclosed the information.
"I think there are still unanswered questions. I think it would be nice to hear from our federal delegation," Lavelle said.
More than 57,000 children have entered the U.S. illegally since Oct. 1, mostly from three Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Markell said in his letter. Twenty percent of the child migrants are 12 years old or younger.
Markell received an email July 2 from DHHS requesting help in housing child migrants. He told The News-Journal on July 14 that the state doesn't have any public facilities equipped to house them.
Markell said in Thursday's letter that the federal agency had sought to shelter the children in licensed entities such as group homes. He said Delaware lacks licensed residential facilities for children because the state relies on foster care to meet the needs of the most children in state custody.