Governor Phil Bryant wants to end a charitable program designed to resettle immigrant children with legal refugee status into Mississippi for the foreseeable future. Bryant says he's worried the federal government will use the program to funnel children who enter the county illegally into the state.
Governor Phil Bryant has told the US Department of Health and Human Services that Mississippi will no longer be accepting any new children into a program that provides foster homes for those seeking legal refugee status.
The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program has been administered by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson on behalf of D.H.S. for 34 years. It currently houses 27 children in the state.
Bryant says he's worried that the federal government will use the program to ease the growing number of children who entered the county illegally through Mexico.
"This program started after the Vietnam War to bring Vietnamese children over here." says Bryant. "Many of the children that are coming now are from areas like Venezuela and El Salvador and Mexico; the same countries that we see children flooding into the United States. I want to make sure that these two programs are not being blended and if takes terminating that program or suspending it until we can make certain of that I am willing to do that."
Leaders from Mississippi's Catholic, Methodist, and Episcopal churches met with the Governor yesterday, to assuage his concerns. The group declined to comment on whether the meeting made a difference.
The Diocese of Jackson did release a statement saying the Governorhas been assured the program serves refugee children coming into the country legally. Yet, Bryant says he needs more convincing before he's willing to accept more children.
"We want to know what healthcare conditions exist with these children." says Bryant. "Where are they? Can human trafficking be a part of this? I someone going to take advantage of these children. I'm worried about the safety of these children. I would like to know that we would be able to terminate this program immediately if we saw it being abused."
In July, The Governor wrote a letter to the President saying he would seek to prevent minors who entered the county illegally from being housed in Mississippi.