HARRISBURG (AP) More than 500 migrant children among the tens of thousands who have flooded the southern U.S. border are being housed in Pennsylvania, attracting a visit from some members of Congress and at least one tea-party protest.
The state Department of Public Welfare confirmed Wednesday that federal officials told them 120 children are in two temporary centers, KidsPeace in Bethlehem and the Bethany Children's Home outside of Reading in Berks County. The other 386 youngsters are staying with "sponsors" including relatives and religious groups, said spokeswoman Kait Gillis.
More are expected to follow. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved temporary housing grants for at least two other facilities to house the children for roughly one-month stays until they can be reunited with their families.
More than 57,000 minors, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have crossed into the United States since October fueling an already intense debate over immigration in Washington and across the nation.
Three GOP congressmen from Pennsylvania Jim Gerlach, Patrick Meehan and Charlie Dent visited the Bethany facility on Tuesday. They said they would support new spending to help deal with the young immigrants, but at a lower level than the president requested.
On Sunday, about 100 tea party protesters picketed the KidsPeace facility, prompting a counterdemonstration by the group's supporters.
On Friday, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett expressed concern that the migrant youngsters might pose health risks and suggested that federal authorities use military bases in Texas or Arizona for checkups.