Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel says that he is willing to take in up to 1,000 illegal immigrant children who have been apprehended at the southern U.S. border.
Emanuel, who formerly served as chief of staff to President Obama, also plans to push a “broad based pro-bono campaign” to provide legal services to the unaccompanied children, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing humanitarian crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Emanuel said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot turn our backs on children that are fleeing dangerous conditions,” he said. “We will do our part to ensure that these children are given access to services and treated fairly and humanely.”
The Obama administration estimates that 90,000 unaccompanied children — mostly from Central America — will be apprehended this year alone. That is three times last year’s totals and up from the 6,000 apprehended at the border in 2011.
The administration has been forced to deal with the surge because of a 2008 law that requires unaccompanied alien children from countries that do not border the U.S. to be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services while they are awaiting deportation proceedings.
According to the Tribune, the Obama administration approached Emanuel earlier this month to help with the unprecedented crisis. Obama has leaned on other Democratic politicians, including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, for help with the effort. A number of local officials and residents have resisted plans to house unaccompanied alien children in their areas.
The costs to house the unaccompanied children will be covered by the federal government, according to Emanuel. Earlier this month, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the issue. That included approximately $18 million to provide legal services to unaccompanied children.
Emanuel may find resistance to his offer.
Earlier this month, citizens gathered outside of the Chicago police headquarters to protest crime in the city. Many there voiced frustration at Emanuel’s inability to curb crime in the city. They also hammered Obama for spending money to help illegal immigrants while ignoring problems in Chicago, his home town. (RELATED: Chicago Residents Hammer Obama On Immigration Spending, Plead For Help)
“With the president setting aside all of these funds for immigrants, and forsaking the African American community and African American families, I think that’s a disgrace,” said one man at the rally.