Gov. Nathan Deal today met with a diverse group from the state's Latino community to discuss how the nation's unaccompanied minor crisis is affecting Georgia and how we can find humanitarian solutions.
"Today's productive meeting served as a follow up to last week's letter to the Obama administration," said Deal. "In Georgia, we're trying to find out who's here, where are they staying and what their federal status is. I asked the group for information they are gathering in the community, and I asked them for guidance and advice on how they think the state should respond. The group reported that there's strong evidence that these children are staying with family members and foster families through placement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They pointed out that the families must agree to cover the child's financial needs, and the group discussed the unique needs and challenges some of the children would bring to a school district in Georgia. Certainly, we all want these children to stay in homes where they are safe and provided for while they are awaiting their immigration hearings before a federal judge.
"That federal process will result in many of these children returning to their families in their home countries, while others may receive refugee status. I was particularly touched by one example discussed today where such an action seems appropriate. One member of the group told me of a 2-year-old from Central America whose parents were killed in gang violence. The child's grandparents, who are legal residents of the United States, brought the child immediately to their home -- as any loving grandparents would. We're hopeful the process will work efficiently and the courts can quickly decide who needs to stay and who needs to be returned to their families in their home countries.
"In order for the state to safeguard these children who are here now, we still need more information about their federal status and where they're staying. It goes without saying, these situations involve our public education, public health and public safety resources, and I'm concerned about additional burdens being placed on local taxpayers in Georgia. But I made this pledge to the group: As a state we will let the federal process work. And during the time it takes to accomplish that, I'm sure Georgians will show their compassion toward these children who have undergone harrowing circumstances."