IOWA CITY, Iowa - The organization “1000 Kids for Iowa” wants to find homes for unaccompanied children who’ve crossed the U.S. Mexican border illegally.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad is against housing the children in Iowa. He believes the federal government needs to secure the border.
The U.S. Department of Human Services, however, said at least 159 immigrant children are in the state right now. Federal authorities are placing them with relatives or other sponsors.
A small group of people gathered in Iowa City Tuesday night with a big mission.
“The primary goal of 1,000 Kids for Iowa is to identify homes for refugee children from Central America and also to identify the support networks that are already in existence in the area that could support these kids once they arrive,” said 1,000 Kids for Iowa’s Jessica Brackett.
The group is pin-pointing organizations such as churches and schools.
Many also noted that the legal community in Johnson County could help.
Dan Vondra, an immigration attorney in Iowa City, took part in the meeting. He’s working with a group that’s in the beginning process of training more lawyers to help the children.
“We want to have immigration attorneys give probono attorneys the basic fundamentals of what they need to know, so that they can help out some of these kids on a probono basis,” Vondra said.
Others attending the meeting were just interested; they’re learning more about possibly providing a home for a child.
“These are children that have to go somewhere, and it’s probably better to have them in home settings than in big institutions, because that would be sort of frightening,” said participant Barbara Threlkeld.
While this group said it is making progress, they know this is only the beginning. Organizers said the federal government will decide the future of the Central American children.
“We do not know when the kids are going to arrive. We have no agreement with the federal government that they will place children through homes that we have identified through the 1000 kids for Iowa,” Vondra said.
Organizers said they don’t know if any more children will even come to the families in Iowa. They’re planning ahead, however, to show to the state and federal government that they want to help.
The group said it hasn’t yet started the process of contacting the federal government to ask it to send more children to the state. The members said that’s the next step. They plan to do that once they’ve visited several other Iowa cities and mobilized people there too.
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