SOMERS, N.Y. A section of Somers Lincoln Hall was taken over recently by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) as a sanctuary for unaccompanied minors apprehended after entering the country illegally.
These undocumented children do not qualify as refugees, but are nevertheless handled through the ORR, said ORR spokesperson Maureen Dunn at Thursday's Town Board meeting. Refugees are people fleeing persecution, civil war or strife. Theyre identified overseas and enter the country under a quota. Theyre legal.
Lincoln Halls 25 illegal immigrants, all boys aged 14 to 17, were taken by the border patrol and, after a few interim steps, transferred to the temporary custody of the ORR. Most of them come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and many have relatives already in America, Dunn said. It is the responsibility of the ORR to provide food, housing, adult supervision and education, such as English as a Second Language, until the boys can be resettled with local relatives. The average stay is between one and two months.
Lincoln Hall has been used as a school for delinquent children for many years. The Town Board asked whether the refugee boys are mixed with delinquents and whether the ORR plans on taking over the facility. The board also wanted to know whether the children have a tendency to run away.
The migrant boys are completely separate. We have to meet state licensing guidelines, which means theres a very large staff including bi-lingual teachers, social workers, cooks, and supervisors," she said. We have no plans to expand right now, but I dont know about the future.
Dunn said the boys are happy at Lincoln Hall.
Theyve risked everything to get here. Its a hard journey and often the family has sold cattle or mortgaged a home to pay for it. For some of them, its the first hot meal theyve had in a long time," she said. "They want to stay in America and they want to see their relatives, so, no, they dont run away.
Somers resident Mark Koppel said the town should not be concerned about the immigrants.
I dont know why the town is concerned with children who havent committed crimes, as compared to children who have," he said. "We should be happy to have them. Id be thrilled if all the kids were like this.
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