BOISE -- Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is calling on the feds to not use Idaho as a destination or staging area for the influx of unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children crossing the southern U.S. border. While a small number of the children are now living in Idaho, the Health and Welfare Department says that none of the children are in the state's custody.
This is all in regards to the more than 57,000 minors, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, that have illegally crossed into the U.S. since October. Most of them are unaccompanied.
On Wednesday, Otter sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez. The letter puts the blame on the federal government for creating this humanitarian crisis by not securing the border, and demands that Idaho not be used as a destination or staging area for any of these undocumented children.
The letter says, in part, "I urge you to take responsibility for the situation the Obama administration has created without foisting it upon states that rely upon our federal government to do its job. Idaho is not, and will not, be held responsible for federal mismanagement of this issue."
But, does this mean these kids were on their way here?
Niki Forbing-Orr, public information officer with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, says they were contacted in an email last month by a federal agency looking for private residential care facilities that might be able to handle these kids. They passed that along to those providers.
"It's possible that one of those private providers has contacted or will contact the federal government, and they could choose to house some of these children," said Forbing-Orr. "We don't currently know any. And, we haven't been contacted by any other federal agency about this matter. None of these children have come into the state's custody."
However, a small number of the children are in the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says eight of those undocumented immigrant children were released to sponsors in Idaho. So, they're not in the state's care. They're with family, friends, or foster parents.
Fifty of those kids are in Oregon. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said that state welcomes the children, who "do not deserve to become political fodder."