Montgomery Co. Prepares to Accept 25 Unaccompanied Minors

News4 has learned Montgomery County has been asked to house unaccompanied minors from central America in a state facility until foster families can be found for them.

Maryland is looking to house up to 1,800 unaccompanied minors now in federal custody after crossing the border -- 25 of whom will be housed in Montgomery County.

"Montgomery County has always been a place that's welcomed and really addressed some of the challenges associated with minors that might be unaccompanied or trying to reconnect with family members that are here in the area," Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice said. 

Councilwoman Nancy Navarro requested a hearing Tuesday to determine if her county is ready to house these minors.

"Mothers, parents, grandparents are choosing to basically put their children on this very horrific trek to come to our own country to save their own lives," Navarro said. 

County executive Isaiah Leggett has reportedly offered support to these 25 children -- some of whom are already in the area -- beginning with education and health services.

"Mr. Leggett's given direction that we must do everything possible to help vulnerable children," Montgomery County Health Director Uma Ahluwalia said.

More than 100 unaccompanied minors were enrolled in the county's public school system last year.

"Montgomery County is home to half of all the immigrants of the state," Navarro said. "We have the largest Latino community. Logic would dictate that a lot of these children are probably trying to reunite with family members in this region."

Enrollment in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) has increased by 860 students in the past three years and will be further challenged by the addition of new international students.

"All of the unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador enrolling in MCPS do qualify for enrollment in the ESOL program where they receive instruction in English as a new language, as well as parent engagement and counseling supports," Montgomery County Public Schools ESOL Director Karen Woodson said. 

The state of Maryland plans to send other unaccompanied minors to Prince George's County. Approximately 50,000 children have been detained at the border since October 2013.

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