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Montgomery County leaders prepare for a surge of migrant children as border crisis intensifies

County officials have a plan laid out once unaccompanied minors arrive.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — As the crisis on the border intensifies Montgomery County is preparing for a potential influx of unaccompanied minors, through either refugee settlement or reuniting with family.

Roughly 34,000 undocumented children have arrived at the U.S.– Mexico border since January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Montgomery County is one of the top ten receiving sites for asylum-seeking children to come to, per county officials.

“We in Montgomery county are actually one of the primary destination areas, and that's not just because we're compassionate, it's because this is where their families live,” Gillian Huebner, consult to Montgomery Co. DHHS said. “We're one of the top 10 receiving areas, so we are expecting that we may receive thousands of newly arriving children in the next few months and by the end of the year.”

Credit: Montgomery Co. Council

Montgomery County has historically seen a high number of children being placed in the county. County officials said from October to February 432 children have been placed in the region, those numbers expected to climb.

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“Given our history and given what we're seeing at the border, we know that the numbers are going to continue to rise and continue to mount for Montgomery County,” Dr. Raymond Crowel, Director of Montgomery Co. DHHS said. “In past years, and in excess of thousands of boys and girls who have come across the borders and joined us here in the county, and I expect that this time the numbers will be much higher.”

At the border, it has turned into a crisis with a rising number of children stranded in border patrol custody and the government scrambling to find housing for them as poverty and violence make conditions in some Central American countries desperate.

“Families are making a really tough decision about whether or not to send their children on precarious journeys to travel to the United States to escape death, what almost is certain death in many cases, being forced into gangs, or being killed by gangs,” Montgomery Co. Councilmember Craig Rice said.

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In a Wednesday committee meeting, county leaders focused on measures to meet children where they’re at once they arrive such as ensuring a smooth hand-off with government authorities, training school staff to accommodate them, and protecting the children against discrimination and bias.

Leaders said Montgomery County may receive 3,000 newly arriving migrant and asylum-seeking children before the end of the year.  

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