Posted: Aug 26, 2014 7:57 PM by Caroline McDougall, Trey Schmaltz
Updated: Aug 26, 2014 10:51 PM
BATON ROUGE - Conflicting information from the federal government shows, to a degree, how many illegal children have crossed into the United States and found refuge with sponsors in Louisiana.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement reports on a state-by-state list that there are 1,275 children in Louisiana. Then, on a separate list that lists the number of unaccompanied minors in each state based on counties (Louisiana has parishes), the data shows 1,048 split between five parishes.
According to the local list, East Baton Rouge has the third-most with 173 unaccompanied minors staying with sponsors. Jefferson Parish was at the top of the list with 533 youngsters. Other locations included Lafayette, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.
The list shows areas where 37,477 refugee children have been placed after being caught crossing the border from January 1 to July 31. The sudden influx has annoyed state officials here, who have said they are worried about safety and the extra burden on tax dollars to accommodate the unaccompanied minors.
"This is gang related and this is drug cartel that are luring them up here," State Rep. Valarie Hodges said in a recent interview with WBRZ News 2. "I think we should ask these nations to come retrieve their citizens and they should pay for it."
Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted President Barack Obama when word spread about the unaccompanied minors earlier this summer. He said there was a "lack of disclosure" and quickly made a trip to Texas for a tour of popular crossings.
Federal law requires the Office of Refugee Resettlement to feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until placed in the home of a sponsor. The policy is strictly patrolled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to place children in humane living arrangements by a sponsor, usually a family member, until judicial immigration proceedings can take place. The department states sponsors must go through a thorough background check before receiving a permit to care for the minor.
Other states housing up to 1,000 or more children include Florida with 3,809, California with 3,903, New York with 4,244, and Texas at the top with 5,280.