Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Concern Voiced for Young Immigrants Catholic Institute's Plan to Shelter Unaccompanied Children Draws Support, Ire

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Concern Voiced for Young Immigrants Catholic Institute's Plan to Shelter Unaccompanied Children Draws Support, Ire

Article excerpt

A charged but orderly hearing Tuesday evening drew a standing- room-only crowd of mostly supporters but also strong opponents of a Roman Catholic institute's plans to temporarily shelter dozens of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America.

Supporters at the hearing, held at Sacred Heart Church's fellowship hall in Emsworth, said they were proud of Holy Family Institute - a longstanding agency offering a wide range of services to children and families - for agreeing to take in up to three dozen immigrants at a time, all of them 12 or younger, on a rotating basis until their immigration status is resolved.

The institute agreed to take the children as part of a wider government response to a surge of Central American children, unaccompanied by parents, traversing Mexico and then crossing U.S. borders illegally.

"I'm your typical blue-collar American," said Walter Krymski of Emsworth, who said the institute helped him three years ago during "the roughest time of my life." His only question about the immigration plan, he said, was: "Will you call me if you need any help?"

But opponents said the U.S. tax dollars going to shelter providers such as the institute should go instead to needy American children and questioned the institute's assurances that the children would be pre-screened for disease and criminal backgrounds.

"There's a concern that your compassion has some unintended consequences," said Bob Howard of Marshall, citing the exploitation of child immigrants by smugglers earning covert payments. "What is your rationale in participating in a political operation that is enabling bad guys?"

Sister Linda Yankoski, chief executive officer of Holy Family Institute, agreed with residents who said the immigration system needed improvements, but said that was a matter for Congress and other elected officials.

She couldn't fathom "why parents feel so desperate to send their children on that journey," she said. "I just know right now there are children who are sleeping on the floor, and I have a bed."

She also apologized repeatedly to Emsworth officials and area residents for not informing them sooner of her acceptance of a federal government request to house the children. …

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