Community meeting planned on Franciscan convent and border children

Syracuse-area residents will have a chance to speak out this week, on whether the empty Franciscan Convent on Syracuse's North Side should be used to house children awaiting deportation hearings

There were no demonstrators in front of the old Franciscan Convent on Syracuse's North Side on Monday, but there's word of at least one, and maybe two public meetings this week on the prospects of using the campus to house children who've crossed into the country illegally, before their deportation hearings.

Syracuse City Hall tells us that Mayor Miner will attend a meeting on Thursday at 6pm, at the Pastime Athletic Club on North Salina Street. Earlier in the day, Common Councilor Jake Barrett had put out a note announcing a meeting on Wednesday evening, but on word that the mayor could not attend there, it's not clear that it will happen. Barrett has not returned phone calls and messages.

Congressonal Candidates in the Syracuse-area 24th Congressional District reflect the views of the two sides on the issue:

Democrat Dan Maffei supports bringing the children here. On Monday he told us "We do have to do the humanitarian thing, and that means reuniting these children with ther families, and until then making sure that they're humanely treated, clothed, fed etc and then we can adjudicate in the usual legal way where the family should be."

Republican challenger John Katko agrees it's a sad situation, but "even if they say there's no cost to the local community, eventually there will be, especially if somehow some way they decide some of these kids are gonna stay, and don't forget some of these kids are near adulthood, some are 16 and 17 year olds, as well."

We learned today that several agencies that help settle refugees in this community are looking at contingency plans, if the children do come here.

If the Syracuse site is selected, it's expected 100 to 200 children could come here, and that the deportation hearings could happen in about a month.

We spoke with Professor Amy Lutz, a sociologist at Syracuse University who specializes in immigration and Latin American studies. "The UN has found that a lot of these children, over half, have clam to some kind of visa, either for asylm or abuse or human trafficking violations," she tells us. "So I think there is need for slowing down the process."

Dr. Lutz says the United States may be partly to blame for this immigration crisis: We deported drug gang members who are now growing in power in their homeland and may be profiting from the border crisis.

If the Federal Government does choose Syracuse as a site to house the children, the final decision will be made by the Franciscan community. We are told the nuns are discussing options, and praying about their decision.

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