By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser
VASSAR — City leaders here have been invited to a Tuesday meeting at Wolverine Human Services’ Vassar Campus, possibly regarding the housing of refugees from Central America there.
“I’m assuming that’s what this invitation is for, just with more black and white details and formulating a plan of action and such,” Vassar City Manager Brad Barrett said Wednesday.
Reports are circulating regarding the housing of young refugees at the Vassar Campus, according to Barrett.
“I’ve heard those rumors,” Barrett said. “I’m going to reserve my right to comment until after the informational meeting. I just know they have space available there.”
Wolverine Human Services, based in Grosse Pointe Park, has opened a number of facilities in Vassar — the first being Pioneer Work and Learn Center in 1988. About 140 youths — including males and females — now reside on the Vassar Campus, though there’s room for about 120 more such clients, according to Derrick McCree, Wolverine Human Services senior vice president.
“We have two closed facilities,” McCree said.
The Wolverine Human Services website states Wolverine “continues to provide the best possible services to the children and families of Michigan.” The website doesn’t indicate if Wolverine plans to house out-of-state children, or immigrants who are among the tens of thousands of children crossing illegally into Texas in recent months from Central American countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
McCree said “We do not currently
See REFUGEES A3
When asked if Wolverine is trying to land such a contract, McCree said “That’s up to the government in terms of what we’re doing. I have no insight there.”
According to Wolfe, federal officials are identifying facilities as potential locations “to increase the medical care and temporary sheltering capacity” for the child refugees. When asked if the Vassar Campus or other Michigan locations have been chosen to house child refugees, Wolfe stated “Facilities will be announced when they are identified as viable options.”
According to federal statistics, the number of unaccompanied alien children being served by a federal program will have more than quadrupled from fiscal year 2012 — when 13,625 were served — to a projection of 60,000 children being served in fiscal year 2014, which ends this fall.
The chidren come primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, with most of them over age 14 and three-quarters of them male. They flee to the U.S. to join family members already here, escape abuse or exploitation, or to seek employment or educational opportunities, according to federal sources.
Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the U.S. Border Patrol has been “overrun” by child immigrants from Central America. In May, 9,000 children crossed the border into Texas, according to the federal Department of Homeland Security. Perry, visiting a detention center overcrowded with Central American children, urged federal leaders to do more to help Texas cope with “a major pending disaster.”
When Barrett was asked if he has been told Central American refugee children will be housed in Vassar, Barrett said “I can’t answer that. No. I haven’t been told they’re coming on this date, or that there are this many (children), or anything of that nature.”
Other city leaders also have been invited to the Tuesday meeting. The Advertiser could not reach Mayor Roger Bacon Sr. for comment.
McCree said the meeting at the Vassar Campus isn’t open to the public.
“We’re two involved stakeholders,” McCree said of the city of Vassar and Wolverine Human Servics. “We wanted to share some information with (city officials) about some of the good things we’re doing on the campus.”
When asked if city leaders and Wolverine officials will discuss housing Central American refugees in Vassar, McCree said “We’ll talk about a lot of things.”
Advertisements are appearing in newspapers stating jobs are open at the Vassar Campus for bilingual applicants speaking English and Spanish, according to McCree.
Pioneer Work and Learn Center, Wolverine’s first Vassar facility, was developed to provide young males with a six-month residential treatment program with vocational work study and outdoor activities, combined with a six-month “Aftercare” program.