Erie News Now is learning more about possible plans to bring immigrant children caught in the U.S. southern border crisis to temporary housing in Erie County.

As we first reported on Tuesday, Glen Renaud, a local businessman who owns a dormitory on Oliver Road adjacent to the Erie Bank Sports Park, offered the space to U.S. Health and Human Services to house fleeing children safely and comfortably, until they can be reunited with their families.

According to an official with the USCRI (United States Committee on Refugees and Immigration) field office in Erie, using the facility would require a contract with the federal government. 

The office of Congressman Mike Kelly knew nothing about the possibility of children from the border crisis being housed in his district when Erie News Now first reached out with questions on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, Kelly's office had reached out to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to try and learn more.  

Here is response the congressman's office received from  the Office of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"FEMA is assisting HHS with contracting and technical assistance including finding sites that can be assessed for suitability.  I can confirm that the site has been assessed, but the assessment is currently being reviewed by HHS and there has been no decision on whether it can be used by HHS to house unaccompanied children."

 

In an interview with Erie News Now, Congressman Kelly said everyone wants to help these children, his district has generous people and his office would be willing to assist anyone who has the expertise to help, but what he's looking for is a clear policy from the Biden administration how it will address the growing crisis at the border. 

"Look we've got a crisis at the border...up until these last few months we've had some control at the border, we had some directive at the border, we had some organization at the border," Congressman Kelly said, "I just think right now this has nothing to do with who is in office, this has to do with actual policy handling a crisis, not addressing it doesn't help the situation."

Rep. Kelly also said there is too much emphasis on whether the Trump or Biden administration has caused the problem, especially with record numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border.  "I don't care if it's a Republican in the White House or a Democrat in the White House, we need solid policy that's easily understood and maintained and handled. This idea of letting it float doesn't bring anybody to any sense of 'okay we're handling this problem.' We need to get the heck away from the politics of this and look at the policy, what's in the best interest of the United States of America, how can we help people, but how can we do it in an organized fashion?" Kelly said.

Some people responding to our Erie News Now stories online about the possibility of refugee children being housed here in Erie County temporarily don't like the idea, expressing concern about the potential cost to taxpayers at the expense of the needs of U.S. citizens.  But others responded with generosity, asking if they can volunteer to help the children, or donate blankets or other supplies.

Glen Renaud said those are questions he cannot answer at this time.  He expect to have more to say in the next few weeks.