RALEIGH (WTVD) --Gov. Pat McCrory didn't seem to be trying too hard to hide his frustration with the federal government's response to the growing immigration crisis.
"We know we have a large Latino population," McCrory said, "but we're in the dark."
The governor said he learned last week that nearly 1,200 undocumented, unaccompanied minors had been placed in North Carolina while their cases plodded through slow moving immigration courts.
They are staying with "sponsors" but McCrory questioned the vetting of these caretakers and suggested that unless they're given thorough background checks, they could be part of the problem.
"A thorough background check takes time and effort," said McCrory, "and we have been told, frankly, through contacts with federal government officials, that background questions are being asked but that a thorough review is not complete. So I feel strongly that these children are being put probably, or could be put in more harm's way than the conditions in which they came from."
McCrory said the state has virtually no information on the kids or who their sponsors are and bashed the federal government for not sharing more with state officials.
"State government and local government is not receiving any information at this time on the location in North Carolina where these children have been delivered," McCrory said. "We are not receiving information on their gender or their names or their age or their health status. We are also not receiving information on the name of the sponsors they've been placed with."
Despite lamenting being left in the dark and having almost no information about the kids or their sponsors or the program itself, McCrory blasted the federal government for not being up to the task.
"They aren't ready," he said. "They aren't ready for this volume. They aren't ready for the background checks, for the health care, the follow ups with immunization; and they aren't ready for the record keeping. Our educational systems aren't ready."
McCrory's concerns run the gamut-- from the safety of the kids here illegally.
"Are they being put in areas where they could be used in criminal activities or being abused in prostitution or drugs or trafficking," said McCrory.
He was also concerned children here could be exposed to new illnesses.
"Since the health status of these children is unknown, do they pose a risk to other children in North Carolina," said McCrory.
He also questioned what the influx of unaccompanied kids -- children without papers or parents -- would mean for the state's already strapped social services system.
"There is a lack of resources to provide care and services to these children at the county level," the governor said. "That is putting additional county pressures to deal with current residents who also have Health and Human Services needs."
ABC11 asked the governor about the state's responsibilities to the kids, while their cases work their ways through the courts.
"At a minimum," he said, "we want to know who they are, where they're going, and who their sponsors are. And we want to know their conditions of health, because there's a good chance we're going to get calls from emergency rooms wanting to know the conditions of these kids."
Asked whether they should all be sent back to their home countries and communities, the governor replied, "Absolutely, absolutely. And that's the way the system is supposed to work is that these children should be returned home."
That position isn't sitting well with some Latino advocates.
"If deportation is his overall goal, I think the governor is wrong," said Viridiana Martinez with NC Dream Team. "We should welcome these kids into North Carolina and do everything we can to make sure they're safe and that their families understand their rights. The state needs to be fully welcoming of these kids and their families."
There seems little chance of that after the governor's resolute answer that all the unaccompanied minors in North Carolina should be "sent home," even as many are reportedly running from violent, abusive and gang-littered homelands.
"These kids shouldn't go home," Martinez said. "They're coming by themselves fleeing violence and crime in their communities."
But McCrory said while he was concerned for the kids coming to the United States illegally, he continued, "I'm concerned for North Carolina. If the numbers increase at this rate, it could have a severe impact on the current resources that we have available to take care of North Carolina children."
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