Undocumented immigrants could be headed to Mid-Michigan - WNEM TV 5

Undocumented immigrants could be headed to Mid-Michigan

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VASSAR, MI (WNEM) -

Thousands of kids from Central America are crossing the border into the United States with no place to go once they get here.

TV5 is learning that some could be coming to Mid-Michigan and not everyone is pleased with the idea.

Rumors have been circulating for a few weeks now, although no official contract has been signed, that the Tuscola County community of Vassar is being considered as a new home for a few hundred illegal immigrants.

Some Vassar residents say city officials would be crossing the line if they allow immigrants who illegally crossed the border to live in the city.

The U.S. government identified several locations to house Central American refugees. The Wolverine Human Service Center in Vassar is one of them.

State Sen. Mike Green says there's a lot for residents to worry about and a lot for city officials to think about before potentially housing several hundred illegal immigrants.

"We don't know their history. We don't know if they have diseases. We know nothing," Green said.

What we do know is that children by the thousands are entering the U.S. from Central America illegally, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They are entering at the U.S./Mexico border, nearly 2,000 miles from this small mid-Michigan city.

Green said illegal immigrants shouldn't be a problem for Vassar residents. It is a problem for the president and his administration.

"If we had immigration reform, this wouldn't be an issue," Green said.

Residents in Vassar say they plan to be part of the discussion, saying local leaders need to deal with local problems before trying to help solve the country's immigration problems.

"They're supposed to care about our best interests over anything and they want to turn it into a sanctuary city, that's what will happen if they allow that," Mid-Michigan resident Tamyra Murray said.

TV5 has confirmed Wolverine Human Services, a local juvenile facility, is in talks to possibly accept dozens of illegal immigrant children from Central America and house them in Vassar.   The company is working with the federal government looking for a location to house the influx.  

Murray is planning a protest against the proposal at Monday's city council meeting at City Hall.

"They have an obligation to take care of us before they do people that are not from here," Murray said.

City Manager Brad Barrett attended an informational meeting last week with representatives from Wolverine.

"We were informed this is a possible service they are looking into providing as an additional revenue stream," Barrett said.

TV5 also confirmed how the proposed deal may come together. It all starts with a third party company in Illinois working with the federal government to find a home for undocumented children. A Wolverine spokesperson said so far no deal has been finalized. 

Barrett expects to hear more reaction on the issue from local residents during the public comment period of Monday's council meeting.

"We'll see what tonight's meeting brings and what the future will hold," Barrett said.

Meanwhile, the Wolverine Human Service Center said it's prepared to take in dozens of these undocumented immigrants.

It's one of several locations identified by the U.S. government to help house the refugees.

"I think the children need to go back to where they came from," said Julie Blossom, a Vassar native.

She spent the last 26 years living in Los Angeles, CA.

She's seen what she calls the long-term effects of illegal immigration and does not want them to spread to her hometown.

"Neighborhoods that decline, multiple families living in one house that's unsanitary, graffiti that takes place, concerned about some of the gangs that come from Central America," Blossom said.

Derrick McCree, vice president of residental services at Wolverine, said nothing is set in stone.   But possible plans include initially housing about 60 immigrant children ages 12 to 17 at the Tuscola County facility.

McCree said Wolverine plans to keep them for only a few weeks until their family members in the U.S. are identified.

"Once they verify the family member is their relative we would transport the child to wherever that is across the United States," McCree said.

He said at Wolverine the children would be treated for illnesses and educated on site. But they would not be integrated into the community and would not threaten local jobs.

"These are all children that don't quality for jobs and will not take jobs away from people. In fact the 60 bed deal would create 55 jobs at our campus for the community," McCree said.

Blossom argues allowing these kids into Mid-Michigan creates a slippery slope to bigger problems. It's an issue she plans to continue to fight against in Vassar.

"We're going to do what we can to use our rights as Americans, use our voice to speak up about the concerns we have and hopefully get enough people to stop it from happening," Blossom said.

Copyright 2014 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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