The Washington Post

Maryland, Virginia suburbs receive surge of border kids from Central America

Three counties in the Washington region have received among the highest numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America since January, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Fairfax, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have taken in more children from the recent border surge than all but five other cities and counties across the nation, largely due to their sizeable populations of Central American immigrants. Most arriving children are placed with relatives or other guardians while awaiting deportation hearings.

According to the agency, only Los Angeles, Miami, one border county in Texas and two counties near New York City have received more such children in the past seven months. Fairfax has recieved 1,023 children, Prince George’s has received 960 and Montgomery has received 816. The District has received about 200.

The total number of minors placed with relatives or other sponsors nationwide is 37,477. A large subset has remained in the border area, with 2,866 children being housed in Harris County, Texas. The location receiving the second-highest number of children is Los Angeles, with 1,993 minors; third is Miami with 1,127 children.

Social service and immigrant aid agencies throughout the Washington region have geared up to assist children who have been taken into federal custody while crossing the border and sent to live with their parents or guardians such as aunts or uncles.

A smaller number of youngsters have been placed in shelters or other residential facilities run by religious or private groups. So far, there has been no significant outcry over the arrival of the undocumented children in the Washington region. Some U.S. communities on the Mexican border, however, have erupted in protests and confrontations.

Other local jurisdictions that received smaller numbers of border children included Prince William County, with 361; Loudoun County, with 210; Alexandria City, with 205; Baltimore City, with 264; and Baltimore County, with 206.

The greater Washington area is home to an estimated half million Central American immigrants, making it the second-largest such concentration in the nation after Los Angeles. Advocates say they have been inundated by the children seeking legal and social assistance here, even after they have been settled in homes with sponsors.

Most of the new arrivals speak no English and need help with education, health and other issues, in addition to legal preparation for their immigration hearings.

Many of the adult relatives recieving the children are also illegal immigrants.

“All the organizations are totally overwhelmed,” said Simon Sandoval-Moschenberg, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Falls Church. ‘”They all need legal advisors. and everyone has a waiting list a mile long.”

Pamela Constable covers immigration issues and immigrant communities. A former foreign correspondent for the Post based in Kabul and New Delhi, she also reports periodically from Afghanistan and other trouble spots overseas.


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