By Emily Alpert Reyes
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday that the city would help shelter immigrant children who have been detained after crossing the border and has begun talks with a federal agency about doing so.
"Before you get partisan, before you tell me where you are on immigration--these are children," Garcetti said Tuesday at a forum hosted downtown by Politico magazine.
"As a father, who are we as Americans if we don't step forward first and say, these kids who are isolated, alone ... let's get them someplace safe and secure," the mayor told the crowd.
Garcetti said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has contacted the city, but he had few details Tuesday about what accommodating the children would entail or when it would occur.
Federal money would flow to pay for legal representation and temporary shelter, while local nonprofits are expected to help find homes for the children, he said.
Garcetti added that the city would also be an appropriate place to reunite many of the children with their families as their legal situation is worked out, because many of their parents are probably in the Los Angeles area.
Garcetti spokeswoman Vicki Curry later said the city's Office of Immigrant Affairs convened a meeting on Friday with officials from the Health and Human Services Department and representatives of local organizations that work with immigrants and the homeless.
Curry said the city's role was as a facilitator to connect the federal government with nonprofits equipped to provide services to the immigrants and would not be directly providing services.
"At this time there is no plan to allocate city services or resources," Curry said.
The surge of Central American children crossing the border into the United States has prompted controversy in other parts of California. Hundreds of demonstrators recently blocked buses trying to move detainees into a facility in the Riverside County city of Murrieta, drawing national headlines.
But other cities have been much more sympathetic. Bell, for instance, recently opened talks with federal officials and the Salvation Army about creating an immigrant shelter.
Garcetti previously signaled that L.A. would help find temporary homes for the detained children, saying their welfare is a more immediate concern than the political battle over immigration.
At a news conference last week announcing that Los Angeles police would no longer comply with some federal immigration requests to detain jail inmates, Garcetti was asked about the detainees and emphasized the plight of immigrant children who were scared and "fleeing some of the most horrendous conditions."
"We should let the federal government do its job right now, which is trying to figure out what to do with this humanitarian crisis, to get the resources necessary to put these kids some place safe while we figure out what will happen to them," Garcetti said last week.
The first step should not be "to somehow shove them away," he said.
(c)2014 the Los Angeles Times