OLYMPIA FIELDS - Thousands of children from Central America are entering the United States through the nation's southern border, overburdening local facilities and resources. The crisis has the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the search for lodging facilities elsewhere in the states.
One facility being considered is in Chicago's far southern suburbs - the quiet community of Olympia Fields.
Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14) released a statement Saturday morning announcing this week the HHS will be conducting an inspection of a former monastery at 203rd and Governors Highway to be used to house some of the children that were illegally sent to America unaccompanied by their parents.
Hultgren called for the effort to halt, saying moving the children to Olympia Fields will only make matters worse for the children.
"We should immediately halt this effort. It is an ill-conceived stop gap solution that will only exacerbate the terrible situation for these children," Hultgren said. "Moving these children further away from the border unnecessarily elongates their legal limbo at orphanage-style federal facilities while they undergo removal proceedings."
Congressional candidate Eric Wallace, who lives near the proposed Olympia Fields housing site, echoed Hultgren's concerns about the children so far from their homes in Central America, and how would the community absorb them into different school levels when the local schools are already financially strapped and struggling to meet community children's needs.
"Who will pay for the care, lodging and feeding of the children who will be moved to Olympia Fields, farther and farther away from their parents in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras? Who will be responsible for this children without legal guardians?" Wallace asked. "Will it be the federal, state or village of Olympia Fields and local taxpayers?"
The Olympia Fields facility HHS is considering to house the immigrant children was once a monastery, is described by realty brokers as a well-maintained facility with 67,000 square feet on 22 acres of land. The property is close to schools, a major hospital, and I-57 expressway. Over $1,000,000 in improvements since 2006, including a new roof and high-efficiency boilers; new sprinkler system in 2012. It has 18,000 SF residential, two commercial kitchens, three landscaped enclosed courtyards, and office and classroom space.
Hultgren said the Obama Administration should be focused on getting the children back to their parents.
“The administration should be returning these children to their countries of residence in a timely manner that respects human dignity and the law," Hultgren said.
"While this situation continues to unfold, there are a number of questions the American people deserve to have answered: What is the real cause behind this influx? What efforts are the administration taking to communicate to the governments in Latin and Central America that these children will not be granted asylum based on the economic hardship leading them here? What facilities—federal and non-federal—will be charged to house these children while undergoing removal proceedings, and why is Congress not being continually notified about where and why children are being moved?"
Wallace said the proposal brings the crisis on America's southern border very close to home.
"No one is opposed to legal immigration, and welcoming those from other nations that enter our country through the system," Wallace said. "But respect for our laws and willingness to adhere to them is prerequisite to being a contributing citizen. These children will be dependent on the U.S. government for their care and welfare, and we're already trillions in debt. This situation isn't good for the people of the 2nd Congressional District."
More to follow ...