NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — More than 1,500 unaccompanied children who entered the U.S. illegally have been placed with sponsors in New Jersey this year, federal officials announced Thursday.
New statistics released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families show 1,504 unaccompanied children were placed in the state from Jan. 1 through July 7. A total of 30,340 were placed nationwide.
The announcement did not indicate where in the state the children have been placed or what country they came from.
The U.S. is battling a surge in the number of children who have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone, fleeing violence in Central America, thinking they will be allowed to stay. Most have come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The number of immigrant children placed with sponsors in New jersey is among the highest in the nation but far below Texas, which had 4,280 placements this year, and less than California, Florida, Maryland, New York and Virginia.
During a town hall meeting this week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie said he had not received any notice from federal officials about children being placed in the state.
“At this point, we’ve had no federal notification that any of these children or adults have been sent to New Jersey. But we’re going to continue to monitor that every day,” he said Tuesday.
He also complained about how little control governors were being given over whether children would be sent to federal facilities or charitable organizations, which are not under state control.
The government places children with sponsors, such as parents, other relatives or family friends, who are charged with making sure they attend immigration proceedings. If a sponsor can’t be found, children typically remain in federal care.
On Thursday evening, at a panel discussion with fellow Republican governors in Aspen, Colorado, Christie took issue with the fact that the federal government does not restrict sponsors based on their immigration statuses.
That means, he argued, people who may not have entered the country legally will be charged with ensuring others follow the rules.
“It is completely illogical, and it’s why folks get so frustrated with government,” Christie said.
“I think we all feel a great sense of sympathy for these children. But can we use some plain common sense?” he railed. “You don’t need a Harvard degree to figure out that if you’re going to try to ensure that someone goes to their immigration hearing that you might want to send them to someone who actually has complied with the immigration laws.”
Christie had previously said he would consider housing children in New Jersey but did not want to do anything that would encourage more law breaking.
“We’ll take every request that comes based on its merits and make those decisions,” he said during a trip to Iowa.
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