119 unaccompanied children placed with sponsors

Updated 3:49 pm, Thursday, July 24, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — More than 100 unaccompanied immigrant children who arrived at the southern U.S. border illegally have been placed individually with sponsors in Rhode Island this year, federal officials said Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a state-by-state list showing that 119 immigrant children had been united with sponsors in the state through July 7.

Sponsors are usually parents, relatives or family friends. They must undergo a background check, but placements are not restricted by a sponsor's immigration status, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

It's not clear where the children are staying or for how long.

Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said he hasn't been contacted by any federal agency requesting help housing groups of unaccompanied minors and that, according to federal officials on a conference call he participated in this week, the need to find large facilities for them has dissipated.

In a statement Wednesday, Chafee said HHS has said that "most of the children have found shelter with relatives or family friends."

The U.S. has been grappling with a surge in the number of children arriving at the border alone. More than 57,000 minors — most from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have crossed into the country since last fall.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick's offer for the state to house up to 1,000 children at two secure facilities for up to four months has been met with some opposition. The group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement held a rally last week at the Statehouse, saying the state can't afford to take in immigrant children in large numbers.

Informed Thursday of the number of individual placements in Rhode Island and asked for comment, Chafee spokeswoman Faye Zuckerman called the information "good to know" and referred a reporter to the governor's Wednesday statement. She could not immediately say whether he had been alerted to the placements.

Sponsors are responsible for making sure the children attend immigration proceedings and report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a judge orders them to be removed or issues a voluntary departure order.