Santa Cruz County

Refugee children being welcomed locally

Several counties continue to look for federal dollars to expand their welcome mat

Local counties prepare to welcome undocumented children

SAN JOSE, Calif. - We've seen the conditions of the facilities refugee children are being housed in. We've also seen the protests in some southern California cities, like Murrieta where people blocked several buses loaded with women and children entering a border patrol station. But it's a different story for many counties - including Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.

Some 52,000 immigrant children have crossed American borders since October, spurring protests on an already volatile immigration issue.

Now Santa Clara County is looking to pull from their rich history of Vietnamese immigrants and will seek to welcome more immigrant children during this crisis.

Santa Clara Xounty Supervisor Dave Cortese says counties like theirs can use social programs already in place to help.

"It takes a village to raise a child and in this case it takes a village to place a child temporarily and get them out of harm's way," he said.

It seems word has come down from the Obama Administration through legislators to survey interest at the county level and Santa Clara is exploring what they can do and they want the federal government to know this.

"The main thing we want to do now is to send a signal out there that whether it's 10 kids that land here or 100 or a 1000 children, that we're open for business," Cortese said.

And they've proved that already, note the graphic to the left. It shows Bay Area counties already receiving some of these refugees. Federal data from the Center for Women and Children show a total of 700 minors that have already been sent to the San Francisco Bay Area counties from January to May of this year. Santa Clara County has welcomed 85 children and Santa Cruz County is one of five counties sharing 102.

The big question is funding in an already strapped for cash fiscal environment.

"What were banking on is that the federal government has indicated that there is a pot of money available for refugee children that are seeking asylum, which is available to a county like ours or cities like San Jose,' Cortese said.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't concerns.

"It remains to be seen how we would handle any refugees," Cortese said. "It was done in the Vietnam era, we have the largest population of Vietnamese than any other part of the country. We all stepped up and we were able to deal with that, so I imagine that even though this is a much smaller population then that, we would use some of the best practices that we learned years ago."

Supervisors should hear from staff in the next two weeks as to what's doable.

Cortese also says local non-profits are part of the mix for solutions in funding for this influx of refugee children, if they have beds open. He also says San Francisco is adopting a resolution to help out as well.

Gilroy Mayor Don Gage said Tuesday that he's very interested to hear a long term plan and very concerned how the county will pay for more refugees.

"You can't dump the bath water and drown the plant," Gage.

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