D.C. and its immediate suburbs have overall accepted about 50% more unaccompanied immigrant children in 2020 than initially projected, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The federal agency said 4,575 children have arrived in the area so far this year in the District, Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and Virginia’s Fairfax County.
“We’re going to do everything we can to support their academic needs as well as their social and emotional needs,” said Gabe Albornoz, vice president of the Montgomery County Council.
“It’s not only in their best interest for us to be able to do that, but it’s in our community’s best interest.”
Albornoz previously told Montgomery Community Media that about 3,000 children were expected.
“They’re coming with tremendous challenges,” Albernoz said during a meeting Monday of county and school system officials.
Many of the children left their home countries fleeing dire situations such as conflict, violence and poverty.
So far this year, Montgomery County has received 1,230 children. That number is 1,678 in Prince George’s County, 1,360 in Fairfax County and 307 in D.C.
Albornoz said local leaders are tasked with helping ease them into school systems and everyday life, and that community-based organizations and nonprofits play a major role as well.
“Government alone is not and will never be in the position to provide the holistic support that these children need,” he said.
When a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Federal law requires that the office feed, shelter and provide medical care for those children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors, usually family members, while they await immigration proceedings.
“Sponsors are adults who are suitable to provide for the child’s physical and mental well-being and have not engaged in any activity that would indicate a potential risk to the child,” according to the resettlement office. “All sponsors must pass a background check.”
Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.
Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.
© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.