A national controversy is playing out in Mid-Michigan as federal officials confront a growing immigration crisis.
Thousands of young, undocumented immigrants are in limbo after illegally crossing the U.S. -Mexico border.
Now a local juvenile facility is in talks to take some of them in and that's got residents pushing back.
"This issue has people really fired up," said Tamyra Murray, a Mid-Michigan resident.
Murray is leading protests against the idea of bringing undocumented immigrant children to her hometown.
A representative from Wolverine human resources said the facility has applied to receive federal funding to provide temporary housing for up to 120 children from Central America.
Wolverine said the children would stay in Vassar for only a few weeks until they are sent to a relative or sponsor somewhere in the U.S., while waiting for their deportation hearing to play out.
"At that hearing you would have to establish if you are eligible for some form of legal status," said Susan Reed, supervising attorney at the Michigan Center for Immigrant Rights.
She has represented some of these children in court and explained what happens during immigrant hearings.
"A legal determination is being made about whether or not they fit the legal definition of a refugee. And if they don't, and they are not eligible for any other form of status, they will be ordered deported," Reed said.
Depending on their cases Reed said the legal process can take anywhere from several weeks to a few years.
Protesters said allowing some of these immigrants into Mid-Michigan opens the door to others. But Reed said that's not how the system works.
"That's really not how the system works. It's my understanding this would be the short term care program. Michigan doesn't really have extremely large Central American communities. It's possible they could be released to relatives who live in Michigan, but not very likely," Reed said.
A spokesperson for U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee, D-MI, said his office has been in contact with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS has indicated to them that Wolverine is not being considered as a temporary housing location for the children.
An informational meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at Vassar High School at 6 p.m.
Organizers plan to discuss what the program could bring to the city.
Copyright 2014 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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