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Albion non-profit to house children in custody at U.S.-Mexican border

Starr Commonwealth Sign.jpg
Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:26:50-04

ALBION, Mich. — An Albion non-profit is opening its campus to over 200 unaccompanied migrant children in response to an urgent request from the U.S. federal government.

Starr Commonwealth will be opening its Albion campus to help alleviate the developing humanitarian challenge at the southern border.

"At this time when our nation is now dealing with a crisis of immigrant children coming in unaccompanied, this is the most opportune time to utilize this facility in providing caring, secure home for these individuals," said the City of Albion's Mayor Victoria Garcia Snyder.

Starr has signed a facilities agreement to allow the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to utilize its 350-acre campus as a safe haven.

ACF will provide temporary shelter for up to 240 unaccompanied migrant children ages 12 and younger as it works to unite them with their family or sponsors.

"We have about 350 acres with multiple buildings and amenities. On that campus is about 17 living units or cottages or houses where each of those are ready and available to serve children and the caregivers that will be coming to take care of the kids," said the President & CEO of Starr Commonwealth Elizabeth Carey.

The cottages that can house up to 240 children and caregivers. The campus also has a gymnasium, cafeteria, school buildings, chapel, ball fields, track and a lakeside park.

ACF said they'll be providing bilingual caregivers who have a background in child welfare or development to care for the children while on the campus. The organization expects each child will stay 30 days or less.

"The time that they will spend with us may short or may be long, but regardless of the length in their stay with us, I want them to know that with open arms, we do welcome these young individuals to our community," said Mayor Snyder.

To protect the safety of the children, certain details about their arrival and care are not being shared.

All children will be screened for COVID-19 prior to traveling to Michigan. They will also be screened for COVID again upon their arrival to campus. Those testing positive will quarantine in one of two cottages on campus to prevent the virus from spreading to others.

Starr Commonwealth isn't the only organization helping. A Grand Rapids social services organization is currently housing 15 unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border.

They said they expect to bring more kids in within the next couple of days.

"For this particular population our ultimate goal is to get them with the person they are coming to be with. Most of them have a family member or family friend that they are coming to be with in the United States. Most often it is a parent. Our goal is to help them get with that parent and be united as a family as quickly as possible," said Michelle Haskell, the Community Outreach Supervisor for Refugee Youth Services at Samaritas.