Northern Virginia Facility Housing Migrant Children
Sixty-seven percent of Americans say it is unacceptable to separate children from parents who have been caught trying to enter the United States illegally according to a recent CBS News poll.
The poll found that 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Independents, compared to 39 percent of Republicans found family separation unacceptable. And 68 percent of Americans said they are a lot about what happens to the separated children.
In Bristow, Virginia, an unincorporated community 64 kilometers west of Washington, the separation policy and immigration in general have taken on new resonance because a local shelter for troubled youth is now housing some of the separated migrant children.
Youth for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization, provides behavioral and other services. Its Bristow location, amidst upper-middle-class managed communities, came as a shock to some residents.
For Dan Ryan and his wife, Gery, the facility is located about four kilometers, or a six-minute drive, from where they live. While acknowledging the need for border security, Dan Ryan voiced concern for the children’s welfare.
“I don’t know a simple answer,” said Dan Ryan, a defense contractor. “I think we have to respect the humanitarian needs that these people have, but we have to maintain our borders. We have to do that. I’m struggling a little bit here,” he added.
Gery Ryan, who is retired, expressed similar concerns.
“I was shocked to hear it, because when the kids were being shipped here in Bristow, it kind of made it real to me — very close and very personal to the fact that it brought it to life more than anything. I knew that the kids were being taken away and housed somewhere, but to say it’s in my own neighborhood, it just kind of set me back for a while.”
Separately, a woman in her 30s who did not wish to be identified said she was against separating children from their parents, but said similar scenarios occur when people are sent to jail for one reason or another. She also suggested that the migrant children would fare better at the shelter.
“Maybe kids will be better off in the facility because they will get services and conveniences that they didn’t have,” she said.
The facility did not respond to VOA requests for comment. A VOA reporter was not allowed to tour the facility last Saturday.
Last week, Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine toured Youth for Tomorrow, which has accepted unaccompanied minor children for six years, according to his office.
Kaine’s office said that in addition to the unaccompanied minors, between 10 and 20 children have arrived at the facility since April after being separated from their parents under U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. He said those who arrived in the past two months were between the ages of 10 and 17. Many were said to be “traumatized.”
Kaine has voiced concern that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Department of Homeland Security, have not said whether children who have been separated from their parents are being sent to other locations in Virginia.
“The Trump administration needs to assure us that every single one of the children they separated from their parents is quickly and safely returned to their families,” Kaine said. “The first step toward that goal is identifying where every child is being held, releasing a list of those facilities, and letting members of Congress visit all of those locations.”
Last Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order to end the practice of separating children from parents who cross into the United States illegally. Before Wednesday, the administration’s zero-tolerance policy required adults to be criminally charged, which meant under U.S. law, children could not stay with their parents but have to be sent to centers run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
VOA Urdu reporter Deepak Dobhal contributed to this report