U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) Monday visited child refugees who are being temporarily housed in the Chicago area under the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Heartland Alliance.
The refugee children, most of whom are from Central America, have crossed the Mexico border into the United States unaccompanied.
“The child refugee crisis on the border is a human tragedy. Thousands of children are fleeing their homes, largely from areas ridden with violence from drug cartels and gangs. As a father and a grandfather, it breaks my heart,” Durbin said. “I urge both chambers of Congress to pass this supplemental funding request as quickly as possible to address this crisis.”
Last week Durbin attended a hearing on President Barack Obama’s supplemental funding request of $3.7 billion to deal with the child refugee crisis. The emergency funding would give the administration resources to stem the flow of refugees in an effective but humanitarian manner.
Eighty percent of the child refugees crossing the border are from three countries — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — where violence from gangs and drug cartels has spiked dramatically in the last few years. According to the United Nations, asylum requests by Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize have increased by 712 percent from 2008 to 2013.
Heartland Alliance, through Heartland Human Care Shelters, has housed unaccompanied immigrant children since 1995. The exact locations of these facilities are confidential. According to HHS, as of July 8, Heartland is housing 429 children and another 319 children have been placed with family members or sponsors in Illinois. Currently, 90 percent of the children at Heartland’s facilities are recent arrivals.