The Bell City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a Salvation Army proposal to open a shelter that would house 150 immigrant children, all of whom have crossed the border into the United States unaccompanied and without documents.
The measure was proposed as a response to the massive influx in recent months of unaccompanied minors, many of them traveling to escape violence in Central America.
Bell's mayor, Nestor Valencia, said the effort to help the children was redemption for the years of corruption that tarnished the city. That same day, former councilman and mayor George Cole was sentenced after being found guilty of misappropriating public funds. Three more ex-council members will be sentenced in the coming weeks.
Video on the city of Bell's website shows the council's 5-0 vote being met with cheers from a packed council chamber.
ABC7 reports that the Salvation Army's plan entails Bell's shelter to house the children for about a month before they're sent home :
Children from 6-to-18 years old will rotate in for about 30 days at a time before being deported.
"It's not our idea. There's no city funds being expended on this. It's a matter of education, but the majority overwhelmingly, I think, we have support," Bell Mayor Nestor Enrique Valencia said.
It will take at least a year for the shelter to open.
Bell's willingness to provide temporary housing for the unaccompanied immigrant children appears to be rare among U.S. cities. Similar plans elsewhere have been met with mixed reaction, if not outright opposition, from residents and local politicians.
At the same time Bell was voting to approve a shelter, the planning commission voted unanimously to deny a permit for one in the city of Escondido, according to NBC7 in San Diego.
Opposition has cropped up elsewhere, too, perhaps most famously in Murrieta, which made national headlines when protestors blocked a bus from transporting immigrant detainees to a U.S. Border Patrol station there for processing.
Here's how other communities around the U.S. have been responding to the issue:
- In Texas, Brazoria County has passed a resolution to ban the housing of immigrant children coming from Central America, according to KPRC in Houston.
- WBUR in Boston reports that the residents of Bourne are critical of a plan to housing immigrant children.
- The Courier-Journal reports the federal Department of Health and Human Services will not use Fort Knox to house immigrant children who present themselves at the U.S. border without their guardians.
- In Mississippi, U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson and Gov. Phil Bryant are at odds over whether to shelter the children in their state.
- The Boston Globe reports that 50 percent of people in a recent poll expressed support for the Massachusetts governor's plan to house up to 1,000 immigrant children at a military facility, while 43 percent opposed.
How do you feel about Bell's decision?