Grosse Pointe Park-based Wolverine Human Services Senior Vice President Derrick McCree told a community-organized informational meeting Wednesday that it wants to enter into a contract allowing its 145-bed facility in Vassar to house children who fled violence in their home country.
"If we are allowed, our intentions are to move forward with this, but not without the support of local community and leadership," McCree said.
Protesters gathered outside Vassar High School before the meeting. State police, Tuscola County Sheriff's deputies and police from Vassar were parked outside and provided security during the meeting, which reportedly drew about 200 people.
Tamyra Murray, an organizer for Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement, described the children entering the U.S. border as an "invasion." She said bringing children to the U.S. and Vassar would be in violation of federal law.
"If this program is allowed to proceed, it will never end," she said.
The plans come as pressure continues to mount on the federal government to treat as refugees the thousands of children traveling alone from Central America and crossing the border into the U.S. Many of the 57,000 young people who have arrived unaccompanied since last fall fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Wolverine Human Services' plans for the Pioneer Work and Learn Center facility, about 70 miles northwest of Detroit. The organization is reviewing a contract to maintain a shelter for male unaccompanied minors ages 12-17. That could increase to 120 after an initial 60 arrive, McCree said.
"We'll do anything in our power to help children,” McCree said. “I understand it's controversial, and many people might not agree with that. We can't make everyone happy."
Under the plans, the children would stay at the facility for up to four weeks, receiving vaccinations and medical care, counseling, life skills development and etiquette training. Vassar Public Schools would offer English as a second language programs.
Federal funds would pay for the children to stay at the facility, McCree said.