Towns Across the Country Turn Away Migrant Children

July 17, 2014 AT 11:40 AM

A shelter for Central American children who crossed the border illegally opened behind Gregg Griffith’s house here a few months ago. The children are quiet. No one has hopped over the fence that separates his backyard from the shelter, a once-vacant youth home. But when Mr. Griffith looks at the brightly painted brick buildings, he is mostly resentful.

“That’s my tax money taking care of a foreign national or however you want to classify them,” said Mr. Griffith, 51, a volunteer fireman and researcher at a chemical plant. “I don’t want to take care of a foreign national. It’s not my problem. We did house kids in Brazoria County there at the youth home. I sort of feel like we should be taking care of our own first.”

Overwhelmed by an influx of unaccompanied minors who are fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America, federal officials are searching the country for places to house them and have been forced to scrap some proposed shelter sites in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York and other states because of widespread opposition from residents and local officials.

The politics of handling the wave of immigrants has grown toxic and holds perils for President Obama.

Some of the opposition has also bordered on the extreme. A few of the protesters who marched against a proposed shelter in Vassar, Mich., on Monday were armed with semiautomatic rifles and handguns. In Virginia, an effort to house the children at the shuttered campus of Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville caused such an uproar that federal officials pulled out, even though a five-month lease had been signed. Someone spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on a brick wall at a former Army Reserve facility in Westminster, Md., that was being considered as a shelter site.

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