July 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Rep. Miller calls chance of child refugees housed in Michigan 'deeply troubling'

Miller (Carlos Osorio / AP)

Calling reports of refugee children from Central America possibly relocating to Michigan “deeply troubling,” U.S. Rep. Candice Miller wrote the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services department Friday stating her strong opposition.

Miller, R-Harrision Township, told HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the letter the children possibly being relocated to Michigan “have entered illegally across our southern border from Central America through Mexico.”

“To date, I am not aware of any communication, formal or otherwise, relayed to these communities and/or their elected representatives, local health officials and law enforcement agencies regarding your agency’s intention to house the (undocumented alien children) in facilities within their communities,” wrote Miller, vice chairwoman of the committee on Homeland Security and chairwoman on its subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

Miller’s letter said HHS is seeking space to house the children in several Michigan cities, but she doesn’t specify which ones.

One facility under consideration is in Vassar, which is just outside Miller’s district. Grosse Pointe Park-based Wolverine Human Services is seeking to subcontract with Heartland Alliance of Chicago to provide housing to an undetermined number of children. Heartland would contract with HHS to relocate the children.

Thousands of children have been traveling alone from Central America and crossing the border into the United States. Many of the 57,000 young people who have arrived unaccompanied since last fall fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Miller’s letter also asks Burwell how HHS determines where to relocate the children, where in Michigan it is seeking to house them and which law enforcement agencies have been consulted about the move.

She also asked what access the children will have to the community they are sent to and whether state or local areas will bear any costs.

“I respectfully ask that you respond to these questions before you continue any efforts to relocate these undocumented foreign nationals away from the southern border and into Michigan,” she wrote. “More importantly, if you are unable to answer these questions at this time, I would request a briefing on how you plan to proceed with these contracts in the future and what notification protocols you will implement for federal, state and local officials.”

Opposition has been forming against the possible relocation, requiring state police, sheriff’s deputies and Vassar police to provide security after a meeting earlier this week.

Wolverine senior vice president Derrick McCree has said no decision has been made yet about the relocation, but that his company is interested in housing some children at the Pioneer Work and Learn Center.

Vassar, east of Saginaw, is represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint. He said in a statement this week that “it has always been a core part of our country’s values to protect those who seek refuge — especially children — from harm.”

Under the plans, the children would stay at the facility for up to four weeks, receiving vaccinations and medical care, counseling, life skills development and etiquette training. Vassar Public Schools would offer English as a second language programs.

Federal money would pay for the children to stay at the facility, he said.