July 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Snyder, Miller take differing approaches on housing of refugees in Michigan

Miller (Carlos Osorio / AP)

The Snyder administration and a member of Congress from Macomb County are calling on the federal government to solve the crisis of tens of thousands of undocumented children entering the U.S.

But the two differ on what should be done with the refugees who make it into the country, some of whom could end up at a private facility in the Thumb-area community of Vassar.

The governor’s office is not involved in deciding whether children might end up being housed at a Wolverine Human Services facility in the community southeast of Saginaw, Dave Murray, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said Thursday. The detainees are paid for and cared for by the federal government, he said.

“We all want to help people. We are a welcoming state,” Murray said. However, “this really is a federal government matter.”

The office of refugee resettlement through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is handling the refugee issue and is seeking facilities across the country that have empty, available beds, Derrick McCree, a senior vice president of Wolverine Human Services of Grosse Pointe Park, said this week.

One of Snyder’s initiatives is to welcome more skilled, legal immigrants to Michigan with the expectation they will help the state’s sluggish economy by establishing businesses and creating jobs.

The Republican governor has called for immigration reform, Murray said, adding the situation of undocumented children certainly needs to be addressed.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, on Friday said the federal government immediately should return those who recently arrived in the U.S. illegally to the country from where they came.

“It is imperative that the people being apprehended at the border not be released from custody because if they are, it is very unlikely they will ever return for immigration hearings on their status, and they will disappear into society,” Miller said.

Vassar is just outside of her 10th District, which covers most of Michigan’s Thumb.

She faulted the administration of President Barack Obama for allowing the crisis to escalate.

Miller said Obama acted outside the law to offer legal status to children who enter the U.S. illegally without their parents.

She has proposed sending National Guard troops to the southern U.S. border to help Border Patrol agents catch people clandestinely crossing the border.

Vassar is in U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee’s 5th District. A spokesman for the Flint Democrat could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The issue of finding a place to house the children sparked protests and counter protests earlier this week in California.

Demonstrators blocked buses carrying children and some adults from entering a federal facility with people shouting for the government to send the children back to their home country. The buses were diverted to another facility in California.

Most of the 50,000 unaccompanied minors that have been caught at the border are arriving from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

McCree said no contract has been offered to his company. He said he hasn’t heard how many children could be sent to Michigan if a deal is worked out, or who would pay for it. The Vassar facility has 145 beds.

He met with Vassar officials Tuesday to explain his company is looking at its options. McCree could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Wolverine, which specializes in working with youth and their families, also has facilities in Detroit and Saginaw. They provide adoptive, foster care and juvenile justice treatment services.

The Pioneer Work and Learn Center in Vassar was developed to provide a “unique six-month residential treatment program with vocational work study and experimental outdoor activities combined with a six-month aftercare program,” according to the company’s website.

Snyder (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)