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173 Undocumented Central American Kids Living In MN

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(credit: CBS) Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – New numbers say 173 undocumented kids are living in Minnesota. That number represents a fraction of the thousands of children who have come to the U.S. from Central America, where gangs are recruiting young members and murders are commonplace.

“I wake up every morning and hope that it’s not going to be my last day,” Raul (a pseudonym) said from his El Salvador neighborhood.

For eight years the teen boy was safe in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his family relocated after they got away. Then they were deported. His father was killed upon their return.

“I cry a lot at night because he was the one who taught me everything,” Raul said.

Since October, the International Institute of Minnesota has taken in seven unaccompanied kids from Central America and found them homes in Minnesota. In all, 173 have come to this state.

“It’s really important for people to understand that these kids are fleeing their country as a matter of survival,” Jane Graupman with the IIM said. “These kids are having to be put on trains and hanging to the top if the train to survive the trip here.”

Graupman said some have had family members murdered, some suffered sexual assaults, some bear the scars of gunshot wounds. One child they received was only 6 years old.

“For all of these children, there’s a baseline of trauma and some of them the trauma is worse,” Graupman said.

In Minnesota, she said, most children who came here have family in the area and that is where they are, safely in local homes where so many wish they could be. Children like Raul.

“That’s something I want to realize in one way or the other,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison says he wants more minors to come to Minnesota. Gov. Dayton said on Friday the state does not have proper facilities.

Graupman said Minnesota is equipped to take more kids but it would need to happen in a gradual manor.

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Statement from Rep. Keith Ellison:

“The situation on the southern border is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response. Since January, more than 50,000 minors have already sought refuge in our country. These children are fleeing sex and labor trafficking, gang violence, and heartbreaking poverty. The UN estimates that up to 60% of the children may qualify for humanitarian protection. Some of these children have relatives or family friends in Minnesota and will be placed here while they wait for a hearing. I know that Minnesotans will come together as a community to support these children, as has been our proud tradition for other refugees fleeing violence and persecution.”

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Statement from Gov. Mark Dayton’s Press Secretary Matt Swenson:

“Minnesota’s state agencies have reviewed all available facilities. None are immediately available that would meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Such facilities would need to be unoccupied, large-scale housing facilities (90,000 square feet or more), near a major city or airport, with specific amenities capable of accommodating certain wrap-around services. However, numerous Minnesota citizens and non-profit organizations are providing housing, legal assistance, and social services to young refugees on an individual basis. Our state agencies will provide supportive services to those families and organizations, as requested. We believe that is the most effective way our state can provide assistance to refugees and to the national effort.”

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