VASSAR, Mich. (AP) - About 50 people turned out to protest a social services organization's proposal to house child immigrants from Central America in a small Michigan community amid escalating debate in about the plans.
Meanwhile, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is calling for compassion following the proposal from Grosse Pointe Park-based Wolverine Human Services, which said it wants to enter into a contract allowing the facility to house children who fled violence in their home country.
Tamyra Murray, an organizer for Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement, led Monday's march from Vassar City Hall to Wolverine Human Services' 145-bed Pioneer Work and Learn Center, about 70 miles northwest of Detroit. Some of the marchers carried U.S. flags, rifles or handguns.
"We must act," Murray said, according to The Detroit News. "We must save America and stand up against this invasion."
The plans come as pressure continues to mount on the federal government to treat as refugees the thousands of children traveling alone from Central America and crossing the border into the U.S.
A similar protest took place last week, when a community meeting about the proposal was held.
Also Monday, the Rev. Joseph R. Cistone spoke out about the proposal. He visited El Salvador in February with Catholic Relief Services and said he saw children in need of food and shelter. He said the U.S. government must come up with new immigration policies, but said "love and compassion" should be the response.
"These are young people, who are trying to escape violence where they are," Cistone told The Saginaw News.
Many of the 57,000 young people who have arrived unaccompanied since last fall fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Wolverine Human Services is reviewing a contract to maintain a shelter for male unaccompanied minors ages 12 to 17. That could increase to 120 after an initial 60 arrive, the organization has said.
Under the plans, the children would stay at the facility for up to four weeks, receiving vaccinations and medical care, counseling, life skills development and etiquette training. Vassar Public Schools would offer English as a second language programs. Federal funds would pay for the children to stay at the facility.