County moves ahead with plan to house border kids

Vigil held in downtown Mountain View to support Central American children caught at U.S. border

A plan that could allow local residents to house dozens of the Central American children detained at the United States southern border got some preliminary support from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, while the situation spurred a silent vigil in downtown Mountain View.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to have county administrators iron out a program allowing "host families" to take in the children temporarily. The much-publicized situation of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border spurred 100 members of St. Joseph church to hold a silent vigil in downtown Mountain View on the evening of Friday, August 1.

"A lot of people are pro-life and this is a pro-life issue," said church member and longtime community organizer Sylvia Villasenor. "They do need care and they will need education -- they are children."

It is unclear how many of the children could be helped in Santa Clara County under the "modest" proposal board members supported on August 5, said Supervisor Joe Simitian, Mountain View's representative on the board, in a phone interview. There could be anywhere from 25 to 100 homes involved, he said.

"I think the honest answer is we don't know yet," Simitian said of how many kids could be helped.

County officials say they don't want to use county funds or take resources away from the foster care system, and expect that federal funding will be available to pay community organizations to do much of the work. Parents of the children would not lose their parental rights, and the children's fate would still be decided in federal immigration courts. County supervisors may approve the "host family program" on August 26, including an effort to line up pro-bono attorneys to represent the children in immigration proceedings.

The program would "help identify and connect (the kids to) host families who have big enough hearts and big enough homes to welcome these kids to Santa Clara County," Simitian said. "(If) the federal government is going to be funding some sort of facility for these youngsters, could those same funds be diverted to host families? They could probably do the job more cost effectively and in a way that's better for the kids involved."

With most fleeing violence in Central America, it is estimated that 90,000 children will attempt to cross the southern U.S. border this year, while 57,000 have reportedly been caught crossing the border since October. As of July, about 30,000 have reportedly been placed in homes around the country, while thousands of other children are being held in warehouses, where Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren says she witnessed hundreds of unaccompanied kids "sleeping on cement floors, dozens of little girls sharing one toilet, with no privacy." She recently called on county officials to help with what she described as a humanitarian crisis.

"We each have a moral obligation to help relieve human suffering," said Supervisor Dave Cortese, the San Jose mayoral candidate who is spearheading the county effort. "Santa Clara County is standing with those communities around the nation who have offered to provide a safe haven for these refugee children who are awaiting federal asylum hearings."

Not everyone praised the effort.

"The kids do need to be cared for and there's really no question about that," said Don Barich of the Tea Party Patriots of Silicon Valley. "This is indeed a humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately it is also a manufactured crisis (created by people) trying to use these children as pawns for a political agenda. They've put those poor children in a difficult position. What's the federal plan for this exactly? What are the feds going to do?"

He questioned the use of county resources to help the kids when "Santa Clara County has highest percentage of food-insecure children in the entire Bay Area."

Board president Mike Wasserman echoed opponents before he voted against the program. "I cannot support the creation of a new program, further stretching our resources, when I know we have so many unmet needs in our community already," he said at the meeting.

"I do believe this is a humanitarian issue, not a political issue," said middle school teacher Andrea Ramos. "Please keep in mind that these children really have left everything behind and they have traveled thousands of miles to get here. That's a journey that shouldn't be taken lightly. I personally would be sincerely honored to help give these children an honorable education and help them feel safe and happy in their homes."

If approved by the board on August 26, county officials say work will begin to place 50 children with host families who would go through a screening and evaluation process. A budget of $200,000 has been proposed, or $2,000 to place each child per month, expected to be reimbursed by the federal government.

County officials say they would work with a number of community organizations to implement the program, including the Bill Wilson Center, Unity Care, Catholic Charities, EMQ Families First, Community Health Partnership, Working Partnerships USA, Center for Employment Training (CET) and Services Refugee Rights & Education Network (SIREN).

"The Board of Supervisors has given us the crucial task of working with our community partners to create a program to care for unaccompanied refugee minors," said county executive Jeffrey Smith in a statement. "There are many factors that we will be examining to meet this humanitarian crisis. Our goal is to make sure that our systems and the community are prepared."


Like this comment
Posted by Put them on an old
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Put them on an old Navy boat and sail them down to guatemala area. Price = less 500k.

The children need to be with their Mothers and Fathers back home. This is insane to think of keeping them here.

NOtice how obama says he wants 4 billion, where do you think he will get that type of money? Yes, from the already poor people with less that are already here in the US. As well as all the other social nets that are here for the US citizens.

Send them as well as the 11+ billion that are already here illegally back. Nothing is wrong with our immigration system, only thing wrong is that the govt. does not enforce it.

We have had enough.

Like this comment
Posted by LikeToWatch
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

LikeToWatch is a registered user.

Until such time as we have fully taken care of citizens and legal residents, there is no reason to spend money or other resources on these people.

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Posted by vkmo
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:08 pm

This is something for involvement by Catholic Church and governments in Mexico and the Central American countries where these kids come from. Church and their government officers should meet with the parents and families of these kids and take care of the kids, their families and prevent them from crossing over into USA. It's not right for kids from broken families arriving here and shouldn't be the responsibility for USA. They will dilute the USA population with undocumented non-citizens needing care.

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Posted by Sage
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Thanks Mountain View leaders for your compassion and vision. The next Steve Jobs is probably in that collection of children. Sage

Like this comment
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Deport them. they came here ignoring our laws and as such we have no responsibility for them. If they managed to come here from thousands of miles away they are perfectly capable of making it back home. We cannot allow people disenchanted with their own country to come here and ignore our laws.
They can go home and fix their own country. Close the border, deport ALL illegals period.
All I can say is if these people want to Sponsor these illegal children make them completely responsible for them. If they miss a deportation hearing or the illegal comes up missing the Sponsor goes to jail.

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Posted by David Harkness
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm

These kids are a direct result of our insipid war on drugs. We refuse to take responsibility for our drug use so we force other countries to control the supply via death squads. That raises prices--and thus profits and violence to protect the supply lines.

This funds the cartels and fuels the violence used to build gangs much like franchises for a fast food chain, but with guns.

The solution--decriminalization of use, programs for abusers, and control/taxation of sale--is fought by alcohol producers and groups who feel use is morally wrong. However, they don't take the ramifications of prohibition into account.

Alcohol prohibition built up organized crime here, and drug prohibition is doing the same in the US and Latin and South America.

The solution is the same: decriminalize and deal with the health issues rationally. Not only is this the humane choice, but it solves many seemingly-unrelated problems to boot.

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Sorry Daniel, but I call BS on this story.

You would have us believe that unaccompanied children traveled great distances from Central America through Mexico which ironically is openly hostile and violent towards illegal immigrants then over open desert into the US. Do you really believe that?

The more likely story is that parents paid smugglers to bring the children into the US knowing that unlike adults they would not be deported.

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Posted by El Silencio
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:50 pm

They need to be sent back. This county needs to take care of its own first. Those who are here legally here. Spending money on them is nonsense. That money can be used in so many ways including public schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:20 am

To all you naive and mindless liberals that actually believe the United States should be the benevolent father to the needy of the world, well welcome to what is reality, not the fantasy that you have conjured up in your uneducated minds. First these minors are not just "children," they included individuals right up to the age of eighteen, and many of the teens are tattooed with gang symbols. And once put up in people's home just how much time would it take for them to be on their way contributing to crime, gangs, and burdening our system with disease and soaking our system with our free medical and other services. In your humanitarian idealism you will do nothing but seed the eventual destruction of the society and way of living you enjoy now. Remember it is only the people with a political agenda that keep calling these people "children." And to those that still believe that, will how about Nancy Polosi, Feinstein, and other millionaire government employees open their homes to these defenseless and needy "children."

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Posted by MVresident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 7, 2014 at 1:54 am

Where is the outrage at the irresponsible parents who abandoned their kids to make a long perilous journey? Why don't those parents take care of their own kids instead of wasting Santa Clara county tax money?

Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:34 am

With the comments from Dennis and something called "titlar," it's safe to say that this discussion thread has jumped the shark.

Which is sad, since there is room for an actual debate on this issue. Just not from types like that.

Like this comment
Posted by gsbr
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:11 am

Mountain View city should not reward law breaker families with tax money of its citizens. These kids are the responsibility of their families and should be returned to where they lived.

Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Linda Curtis is a registered user.

David Harkness is the only one who has a handle on this.

The rest of you, form your opinions after you do the research as to what is happening here.

This is not parents abandoning their children. It is them saving their children from being murdered by the drug cartels which we created with our drug laws. The children are forced to serve as drug mules for these gangs and are then are murdered. If they refuse, they are murdered first thing. If their parents try to hide them or protect them in any way, they are murdered.

1. Help these kids while they are here for now.

2. Abolish our drug laws and replace them with those like Europe's where doctors' prescriptions allows purchase of pure, clean drugs, with no one killing or stealing because of drugs. A trillion dollar, forty year war on drugs has totally failed and created this mess. The USA needs to end this war immediately, and when these drug cartels have fallen apart, then:

3. Send these children back home to their loving parents and their homes in their country that they were forced to leave because of us.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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