Resettlement of Unaccompanied Minors Divides Michigan Town

By Steven Kovac
Steven Kovac
Steven Kovac
Reporter
Steven Kovac is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Michigan. He is a former small businessman, local elected official, and conservative political activist. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Steven and his wife of 32 years have two grown daughters.
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

ALMA, Mich.—A proposal to open a 36-bed residential resettlement facility for illegal alien teenagers in a small central Michigan city has ignited a firestorm of opposition from its citizens.

An estimated 400 people attended the City of Alma Planning Commission’s July 12 public hearing to voice their opinions on the issue. The planning commission is expected to make a recommendation to the city commission on Aug. 4 on whether to approve a request for the conditional rezoning of a recently closed nursing home facility owned by Michigan Masonic Home—also known as Masonic Pathways—a fraternal philanthropic nonprofit organization.

Bethany Christian Services, a nonprofit corporation based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that would operate the facility, has signed a letter of intent to lease the 6.1-acre property for an annual rent of $385,440, for the purpose of running what it calls “a small group shelter for the short-term care of low-risk youth from 12 to 17 years of age.” Bethany’s goal is to connect the youths with relatives or place them in foster homes.

The Alma shelter, and other such arrangements across Michigan and beyond, are part of the Biden administration’s effort to disseminate the thousands of migrants surging across the United States’ southern border and throughout the interior of the country, and place them in what it calls “influx sites.”

During the month of March, more than 19,000 unaccompanied minors were taken into custody at the southern border by Border Patrol, the largest monthly number in U.S. history.

Federal law requires that such children be transferred out of border facilities and into a “child-friendly” location within 72 hours. The chain of custody goes from Border Patrol to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to a contracted nonprofit, such as Bethany Christian Services or Lutheran Social Services of Lansing, which received a federal grant of $2.2 million during the Obama administration for similar services.

One such influx site, with the capacity to house 240 migrant children, aged 12 and under, recently opened in the small southern Michigan city of Albion. This 350-acre property, a former home for runaway boys, was leased by the federal government and is operated by nonprofit organization Community Action of South-Central Michigan as an emergency intake center, where migrant children stay for up to 30 days before being relocated to another Office of Refugee Resettlement facility.

Media organizations operating in Texas have reported for weeks that unaccompanied children taken into custody at the U.S.–Mexico border are being flown on U.S. military or other government-supplied airplanes to undisclosed destinations. The locations aren’t being divulged out of “concern for the safety of the children,” one federal official said.

At the public hearing in Alma, a spokesperson for Bethany Christian Services explained how the process is paid for, saying: “Everything is fully funded by the U.S. government.

“This program doesn’t cost the state of Michigan anything.

“Bethany’s mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus by protecting children. It is a moral issue.”

Audience member Dr. Jeff Smith, who strongly opposes the proposed resettlement center in Alma, appeared to take offense at the claim that the issue is a moral one.

“Don’t lecture me about what’s morally right,” he said. “I went to these countries on medical mission trips. I’m not going to be told I am morally bad by people who stand to make millions.”

Bethany Christian Services didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment regarding the amount the organization would be paid by the federal government to operate the Alma resettlement center.

A man named Michael from Alma told the planning commission that he strongly supported the new resettlement facility and that he had heard enough “fascism” swirling about the issue.

“The sole consideration of the proposal hinges on one question: Is the request consistent with Alma’s zoning ordinance?” he said.

Kelly Brown, from the nearby town of St. Louis, Michigan, reminded the planning commission: “The need is great for Michigan children waiting for placement in foster homes. There is a lack of foster placements for our own children.”

According to the Michigan Immigration Rights Center, Michigan has one of the nation’s largest long-term foster care programs for illegal immigrant children. Of the more than 700,000 people born outside of the United States living in Michigan, an estimated 129,000 came into the country illegally. More than 70,000 U.S. citizens in Michigan live with at least one illegal alien.

According to a 2018 study by the Migration Policy Institute, 47 percent of Michigan’s “unauthorized” population came from Mexico and Central America. Fifty-two percent were male and 48 percent were female. Between 2000 and 2020, the Michigan population of foreign-born individuals grew by 34 percent, while the number of U.S.-born residents dropped by 2 percent.

In 2019, Michigan had the 10th highest rate of refugee resettlement in the nation.

Steven Kovac
Steven Kovac
Reporter
Steven Kovac is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Michigan. He is a former small businessman, local elected official, and conservative political activist. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Steven and his wife of 32 years have two grown daughters.