CONTACTS: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; email@example.com
BALTIMORE, MD - A large coalition of groups is speaking out to thank Governor Martin O'Malley for his courageous response to the unfolding child refugee crisis and efforts to find shelter for them in Maryland. The groups' letter, which applauds the governor's statement that "[w]e are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death," offers help in welcoming the children to Maryland and reaffirms how important it is that any chosen sites be appropriate for children and as close as possible to legal service providers and supportive community organizations.
The signatories include the ACLU of Maryland, CASA de Maryland, Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Immigration Legal Services, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, World Relief Baltimore Immigration Legal Clinic, Maryland Disability Law Center, Open Society Institute - Baltimore, Public Justice Center, Power Inside, Women's Law Center of Maryland, Maryland Working Families, the Immigration Clinic at University of Maryland School of Law, a distinguished group of faculty members from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and several immigration legal service providers and law firms.
The groups commend Governor O'Malley for having the integrity to recognize this crisis for what it is: a situation that requires compassion and help, not an inconvenience to be resolved by shipping refugees back to violent and dangerous situations without proper consideration of their claims to asylum or other legal relief.
The letter stresses the belief that the best arrangement for unaccompanied children is to send them to relatives living in the United States while their immigration cases proceed and, if no relatives are available, to place them in foster homes or to provide temporary housing in a humane setting appropriate for children. Where that is not possible, any site in Maryland should be a shelter where education and services can readily be provided, and where the children are nurtured and protected.
The letter emphasizes the importance of proximity to legal service providers, in order to minimize the number of children who are forced to appear in immigration court unrepresented, and to community organizations, in order to facilitate access to as much programming and community support as possible. The groups also share the governor's belief that the children should not be placed in parts of the state where they may be exposed to targeting and harassment by local residents.