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Iowa City Catholic Worker House wants Iowa to accept migrant children

Published: Apr. 11, 2021 at 11:13 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Members of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House say they are disappointed in Governor Kim Reynolds for rejecting a federal request to accept migrants in Iowa. The Governor saying last week that the state didn’t have the facilities to house migrant children, and calling the need to find them a home the President’s problem.

This comes as US Customs and Border Protection reports nearly 19-thousand unaccompanied children arriving at the border in March.

Juana Cuyuch Brito made it to Iowa from Guatemala, but now she waits for her 16-year-old sister, Lidia, who’s at the border.

“I don’t know whose hands she’s in,” she said. “Who’s taking care of her, or what’s going on.”

She’s pleading for the Governor to change her tone, and find a way to reunite them.

“It makes me feel very sad, but sometimes it feels like I don’t know what to do,” she said. “We immigrants, we come here to work, we are not trying to do anything else.”

Maureen Vasile with the Iowa City Catholic Worker House thinks the state has room for migrant children.

“I do think that it could be worked out,” she said. “I think that anybody can make arrangements. All they’re trying to do is save their children from harm and reunite their families.”

Vasile plans on calling the Governor until something gets done.

“I will call and talk with my friends and have them call as well,” she said.

The state responding with this email: “Director Garcia notified the federal Administration for Children and Families that the State of Iowa is not in a position to take unaccompanied minors at this time. Director Garcia made this recommendation to the Governor based on recommendations from our team at DHS. This is due to limited resources and administrative concerns.

  • There are 924 unoccupied licensed beds. This does not reflect staffed, available beds.
  • Available and staffed beds is estimated to be 195. This does not account for whether these are appropriate placements for small children

Appropriate Placement

  • Currently, group care providers now serve kids and teenagers with more severe behavioral health challenges, trauma and sexualized behavior. Placing unaccompanied minors in this environment is not appropriate.
  • Mixing young, non-English speaking kids with this population raises serious safety concerns.
  • This effort would also require additional supports including:
    • Medical and behavioral care
    • Schooling
    • Clothing
    • Ensuring safety
    • Bilingual staff

This would also increase caseloads for our social workers (which we’ve been working to reduce), who would in addition to increased caseload would be tasked with the additional challenge of finding forever homes.

We acknowledge this is an incredibly saddening and difficult situation.”

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