Hickenlooper concerned about relocating Central American refugees to Colorado

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper shares the stage with Vice President Joe Biden during NGA meetings in Nashville over the weekend.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper shares the stage with Vice President Joe Biden during NGA meetings in Nashville over the weekend.

DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t ruling out seeing some of the more than 57,000 Central American immigrants who have crossed the Mexican border relocated to Colorado, although he has a number of concerns that would need to be addressed starting with the costs to the state.

While the administration has not yet made any official request, the Associated Press reported Monday that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell met Sunday with Hickenlooper and a number of other governors who were in Nashville over the weekend for meetings of the National Governors Association, which Hickenlooper just took over the chairmanship of, as the administration looked to gauge support from the states for a possible relocation.

“Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don’t want to see another burden come into their state,” Hickenlooper said. “However we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.”

A number of Republican governors were also critical of the proposal, seizing on “seized on the administration’s plans to place the children with friends or family members without checking on their immigration status.”

And many Republicans have since focused on Hickenlooper’s comment as evidence that opposition to the relocation of the undocumented immigrants is “bipartisan”.

Under current law, immigrant children from countries that don’t border the United States and who cross into this country by themselves are turned over to HHS within 72 hours.

From there, they often are reunited with parents or placed with other relatives already living in the country, while they wait for an immigration court to decide their future. The court process can take years.

Neither Burwell’s agency nor immigration officials check the immigration status of relatives who take custody of the immigrant children.

Since October 1, more than 57,000 children have crossed the border alone. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala.

“The governor participated in a broader discussion about this issue on a national level,” Hickenlooper’s interim communications director, Kathy Green, told FOX31 Denver. “He clearly understands the importance of this humanitarian issue while acknowledging Colorado has limited resources and that there are real costs associated with the inability of the federal government to manage the issue.”

Green also said that the administration has yet to request that any states absorb some of the new immigrants streaming across the border, and that Hickenlooper was simply making a point that states can’t be asked to pick up the tab.

“We are not aware of any request to Colorado to host immigrant children,” she said. “There would be a more formal process for that rather than a meeting. The cost burden was the purpose of the meeting, so the Governor’s statement is being taken out of context — he was only acknowledging the reality of limited resources in dealing with a critical humanitarian issue.”

President Obama has asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion to help manage the influx of Central American immigrants, some of which could be allocated to states where those individuals are relocated to.