Federal authorities will not reveal details about the 350 immigrant children taken into custody at the U.S. border who have been placed with sponsors in South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley’s office said Friday.
But Haley said the children surely will come with a cost to the state.
Haley expressed frustration at the lack of information about the children and their sponsors. She also expressed skepticism the children will not cost the state anything, as — she said — federal authorities told her.
“You want me to educate them, right? And you want me to pay their health care, right? It does cost us something,” Haley said Thursday while speaking on a panel in Aspen, Colo., where she was attending a Republican Governors Association meeting.
Haley continued: “(T)his undocumented child is going with this undocumented person, in my state, that you tell me you can't find. This is a problem. We do care about these children. We do want them to be safe. But we also have our own children to take care of ... and we're trying to balance a budget. And because they won't do the one basic thing of securing our border, we are now taking on additional children.”
Haley added that, when she asked a Homeland Security official “who these children are, or where they are,” the official said, “ ‘We can't tell you because of privacy issues.’ ”
A note on Health and Human Services’ website says that the children’s privacy and safety are of “paramount importance. We cannot release information about individual children that could compromise the child’s location or identity.”
Haley learned about the children Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released state-by-state data showing that more than 30,000 children have been transferred to sponsors nationwide from Jan. 1 to July 7.
On a conference call with federal authorities Tuesday, a Haley administration official learned that most of the children crossing into the United States had a U.S. family member or contact. The children shared that information with federal authorities, the Governor’s Office said Friday.
Federal authorities would not release information to states about the sponsors who received the children or whether the sponsors are in the country illegally, Haley’s office said Friday.
Federal authorities are charged with placing the children in a setting that is in their best interest, according to Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement website. The ideal setting is with a parent, relative or family friend.
Sponsors undergo background checks, but their immigration status does not impact whether the children can be released to them. Children are vaccinated and medically screened before being released to sponsors, who must agree to cooperate with immigration proceedings.
Federal officials did not say how or when the children were brought to the state, Haley’s office said Friday.
No children have or will be sheltered in state or military facilities, Haley learned from U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last week. That plan has not changed, Haley’s office confirmed Friday.
“Now that we know there are some children being placed with sponsors in South Carolina, we will work with Homeland Security, understand our options, and make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our state,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said.
A Columbia social justice advocate said she was disappointed with the hostility being expressed toward the children and their sponsors across the nation.
“Why are we not recognizing that these children are facing imminent danger and families are doing what they can to get them out of that dangerous situation?” said Sue Berkowitz, director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center. “I’m astounded that America is behaving this way.”
Staff writer Cassie Cope contributed. Reach Self at (803)771-8658.