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Lansing city leaders are being asked to welcome undocumented child immigrants

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

This week,  activists will ask Lansing city leaders to adopt a resolution welcoming thousands of undocumented children who’ve entered the U.S. this year.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 50,000 children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have crossed the southern United States border illegally. Most remain in overcrowded detention centers as their immigration status is reviewed.     

During the past month, anti-immigration groups have held vocal protests against efforts to bring undocumented children to Michigan. 

Father Fred Thelen of Lansing’s Cristo Rey Church says he’s disturbed by the tenor of those protests directed against children fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries.

“We are losing our soul as a nation,” Thelen told a crowd at his Lansing church last week.  "We might as well dump the Statue of Liberty into the bottom of the sea.”   

Thelen’s part of a group of clergy and immigration activists who plan to ask the Lansing City Council Monday evening to pass a resolution to welcome the young immigrants to Michigan’s capitol city. 

“We are here to teach those who have shown so much hate the last few weeks how to give an old-fashioned Lansing welcome to the refugee children of Central America,” said Maximo Angiano with Action of Greater Lansing.  

Credit Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
Numerous anti-immigration rallies, like this one in Vassar, have been held across Michigan to oppose efforts to bring some of the thousands of undocumented child immigrants to live temporarily in facilities here.

Angiano said Lansing City Council members appear open to the resolution, which is similar to ones already approved by several other U.S. cities. 

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Senate Democrats and House Republicans are moving separately to slash President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request for the southern border, but they're unlikely to end up with a deal that could pass both chambers.

A Senate bill would allocate $2.7 billion for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources in South Texas, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have been arriving. That amounts to a $1 billion reduction in Obama's request.

House Republicans were expected to go even further, with more limited spending that would be focused heavily on enforcement provisions rather than caring for the youths.

The result looks like a stalemate, with little time left to resolve a deadlock because Congress' annual August recess is just around the corner.

Credit Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
23-year-old Jose Alvarenga came to the U.S. when he was 14 years old. He and his 12-year-old brother came to this country as undocumented immigrants.

Jose Alvarenga came to America from Honduras when he was 14 as an undocumented immigrant. He made the journey with his 12-year-old brother.  

He hopes the nation will become more open to changing its immigration laws.

“People are still going to be coming and we got to be prepared to welcome them as we should with open arms,” said Alvarenga.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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