One day after Gov. Paul LePage says he learned that eight undocumented, unaccompanied minors have been placed in Maine, state officials say they're still trying to get more information about the children. Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says the state received no advance notice about the children, what their health status is, how long they'll be here or where they are in Maine.
"There is no coordination between the state of Maine and the federal government, and that certainly is consistent with some of the experiences in other states," Mayhew says. "We are concerned, not only in the short term, but in the long term about how this is competing with other resources that today are supporting our refugees."
Mayhew says it's been frustrating not to be able to get answers to these questions from the federal government. But in an email to MPBN, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the eight kids were released to sponsors in Maine between January and June of this year. Kenneth Wolfe says sponsors are generally family members in the U.S., usually parents. Wolfe says placement of the kids will be paid for by the Unaccompanied Alien Children program budget, part of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Meanwhile, Alison Beyea of the ACLU of Maine, says it's important to remember that under federal law, unaccompanied kids fleeing violence cannot be turned away.
"We do have a legal framework in place that can review claims of kids, or adults for that matter, seeking refuge and protection here in the United States," Beyea says, "and if we shortchange that process, it means we're shortchanging our Constitution."
Beyea also points out that this is not the first time undocumented, unaccompanied minors have arrived in Maine.