City weighs plan to house immigrant children at Blossom South

By WILL ASTOR - 7/22/2014 12:02:29 AM

City officials are weighing a proposal to house up to 172 undocumented immigrant children in the former Blossom South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center building on Monroe Avenue.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who tentatively is open to the idea, met with city officials Monday to discuss the possibility of housing young immigrants in the shuttered skilled nursing facility after Blossom South’s owners contacted a city official, Warren administration spokeswoman Jessica Alaimo said Tuesday.

The proposal is preliminary, Alaimo said. The city has not contacted federal officials to discuss the plan’s feasibility or whether the building at 1175 Monroe Ave. in the city’s Upper Monroe neighborhood would be suitable.

The feeler from the home’s owners comes as thousands of underage Central American immigrants are crossing the U.S. border daily with many fleeing crime and gang violence in their native countries.

A U.S. policy dating to the George W. Bush administration bans U.S. authorities from immediately deporting undocumented minors. Some can be placed with relatives already living legally or illegally in the United States but many more need housing.  

The city has not been contacted by federal immigration officials and has no sense yet of how workable the nursing home owners’ proposal might be, Warren cautioned.

“Right now, we have a situation where someone made an inquiry of our city. We’re on a fact-finding mission to find out what would be required of the city if anything,” the mayor said.

At the outset, it does not appear any city money would be needed if children were housed at Blossom South, Warren said. Any federal dollars the facility might bring could provide local jobs.

Still, she said, questions need to be answered before the city takes a formal stand on the proposal.

“Do we have the support network: the community organizations, the legal organizations and the spiritual organizations to help with that? We have not (asked) the federal government about their intent.

“We’re going to do our due diligence and find out all the information before any decision is made,” Warren said.

The nursing home owners’ proposal comes weeks after federal and state officials, citing a long list of longstanding health and safety concerns, forced Blossom South to close and after the facility’s out-of-town owners lost a court fight to halt the shutdown.

The Syracuse Post-Standard has reported that Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner wrote to President Barack Obama last week, asking him to help expedite any plans to temporarily house up to 200 Central American children on the Franciscan campus on Syracuse's North Side. Her offer prompted protests and counter-protests Friday, the newspaper reported.

“One thing we all know,” Warren said, “is that children don’t ask to be born. Our country was founded on the fact of people wanting a better life for their children, for their family. In this situation, we have children who are suffering, coming across the border in hopes of a better life. We need to show some compassion.”   
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