BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Maryland is on the front lines of an immigration crisis as thousands of children pour into the United States from Central America. Now new sites are being considered to house them.
Investigative reporter Mike Hellgren has the emotional story of teenagers who came to the United States from Guatemala.
He’s one of hundreds of children who have fled here to escape violence at home. An office building in West Baltimore once used as a shelter, is no longer being considered. While state leaders are working with federal officials to find new shelter locations, they aren’t revealing where, likely to avoid a firestorm of protest.
Mynor is one of the faces of this wave of immigration. The teenager faced harrowing conditions as he made his way to Baltimore from Guatemala.
Mynor said he feared for his life in his home country. He tells WJZ life at home was so violent, he couldn’t walk to school.
For many Central American children,gangs have taken over the streets making the gamble of fleeing for the United States, a better bet than staying at home.
Sixteen-year-old Raul says it’s like Russian roulette in El Salvador.
“If I make it, it’s going to be a thousand times better than if I stay here. I wake up every morning and hope that it’s not going to be my last day,” he said.
Now with more than 50,000 immigrant children flooding the U.S. in less than a year, comes growing pressure to house some of them in Maryland.
“I think its in the best interest of our state. I’m not a real estate, but I’m sure that somewhere in our state there’s an appropriate facility,” said Elizabeth Alex of the Casa de Maryland.
But sites in Baltimore City and Westminster have generated so much controversy, they’re now off the table.
“Whether there are diseases, communicable diseases, that children have. There’s so much unknown that I’d rather not have it in the community at all,” said Maryland Congressman Andy Harris.
U.S. Health and Human Services has identified a new possible Maryland shelter, but is keeping it secret.
Governor Martin O’Malley is advocating for a smaller network of homes.
“The best form of housing is the least restrictive setting, namely in homes with relatives ideally,” said Governor O’Malley.
Despite the controversy, the wave of child immigrants is not stopping and Maryland is still in play as an escape from bloodshed at home.
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