HYATTSVILLE, Md. (WNEW) — As kids in Maryland and Virginia get settled into the 2014-2015 school year, some will have new classmates –unaccompanied immigrants placed in local homes by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors while they await immigration proceedings.
The government estimates that 90,000 children, primarily from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, could make the journey to the U.S. border by themselves this fall, and that as many as 145,000 of them could arrive next year. Unaccompanied children often come to join a parent or family member, many times escaping criminal gangs or extreme poverty.
According to ORR, thousands of immigrant children have already been released to sponsors in Maryland and Virginia since the beginning of the year.
Montgomery County and Prince George’s County account for 1,776 of the 2,632 children that have been placed in Maryland.
Alexandria, Alrington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County account for 1,932 of the 2,424 children placed in Virginia.
“This metro area is receiving more kids per capita than you’ll see throughout the country,” Casa de Maryland spokesman George Escobar says.
But Escobar says the area was ready for the surge. “We’re not being taken completely by surprise.”
The five U.S. counties with the largest influx of immigrant children since the beginning of the year are:
Harris County, Texas / 2,866
Los Angeles County, California / 1,993
Suffolk County, New York / 1,181
Miami-Dade County, Florida / 1,127
Nassau County, New York / 1,096
The following is county-level data from the ORR for unaccompanied children released to sponsors by the counties where the sponsors live, where 50 or more children have been released since January 1, 2014.
Anne Arundel County / 145
Baltimore City / 264
Baltimore County / 206
Frederick County / 139
Howard County / 102
Montgomery County / 816
Prince George’s County / 960
Alexandria City / 205
Arlington County / 133
Chesterfield County / 104
Fairfax County / 1,023
Harrisonburg City / 65
Henrico County / 50
Loudoun County / 210
Manassas City / 103
Norfolk City / 58
Prince William County / 361
Richmond City / 112
To see a full list of U.S. counties where unaccompanied children have been placed, visit the Office of Refugee Resettlement website.
WNEW’s Evan Haning contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter.