HHS secretary: Unaccompanied minors already in the Commonwealth


BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- They came to Beacon Hill to say their piece about the unaccompanied minors who could make potentially be housed in Mass., but were angered when they found a closed door meeting. Activists pushed their way past the door of the office of House Minority Leader Brad Jones in the State House to try to force their way into a meeting where federal, state and local officials were talking about wide ranging concerns over the immigration crisis.

"We want to be part of the conversation and they call security!" one activist said.

This meeting comes on the heels of the governor's tearful announcement that he's willing to host on the Cape or in Chicopee, up to 1,000 unaccompanied minors who just crossed the border illegally.

But Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz said unaccompanied minors are already here staying with family or friends in communities.

"A number of these unaccompanied children are already here in the Commonwealth and almost irrespective or not if we are identified as a location for a facility, if there are a sponsors for those children they will continue to come here to the Commonwealth," he said.

"The number was in the hundreds in the Commonwealth and obviously that got into the question what services would those children be entitled," Jones said.

If the unaccompanied minors do come to stay in a facility, some are wondering what happens after they've been processed?

Polanowicz said it's possible that up to 20 percent of them, an estimated 200 children, would not find sponsors and would have to be absorbed into the foster care system, in particular one facility that contracts out with the federal government.

"That facility is Lutheran Social Services, it has a 20-bed capacity to take those foster children here into the Commonwealth," he said.

When asked if Mass. could absorb that, Polanowicz asked for clarification.

"In terms of the 80 or the 20?" he asked.

When told either, Polanowicz said, "The 20 percent the facility that we have as I indicated operates almost at capacity right now. So there's not my understanding not a lot of additional capacity for the foster home placements."

He says it's up to the feds to find another location.

Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson is critical of the whole idea.

"The reality is when you ask the specific questions, it seems the administration doesn't have the facts from the federal government," Hodgson said.

"He says it sounds like you don't have all the facts. Well we have the facts we've been given. I told you the other day and you were there that we had an unusual media avail because you're all chattering about a decision that hasn't been made yet by the federal government!" Patrick said.

When asked if he could ease some of the concerns residents have, Patrick said, "They do have concerns about them and you know I've told you what we have been told, which is this is not about taking children, and placing them in our communities, it's about having them in a secure facility for a temporary period of time."

When asked about the unaccompanied minors who are reportedly already are in our communities, Patrick said that was a "separate question."

"We have children who come to Massachusetts they come here from overseas and they come here from Indiana. And they are absorbed in our communities and have been for decades," he said.