Official: Plan to house immigrants in Va. scrapped

Mary B. Taylor, of Lawrenceville, Va., asks a question during a presentation by federal officials involved in the placement of immigrant children at St Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va., Thursday, June 19, 2014. The program is on hold pending comments from local residents (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Mary B. Taylor, of Lawrenceville, Va., asks a question during a presentation by federal officials involved in the placement of immigrant children at St Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va., Thursday, June 19, 2014. The program is on hold pending comments from local residents (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The government has abandoned a botched plan to temporarily shelter hundreds of Central American children in a rural Virginia town, an elected official briefed on the decision told The Associated Press on Friday.

The official, who was briefed in a phone call with officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke on condition of anonymity because the health agency was still informing officials in Lawrenceville, Virginia, and Brunswick County on the decision.

A spokesman for HHS said an announcement on the plan was likely Friday but did not elaborate.

The decision came after officials overseeing the placement of a deluge of children and teenagers entering the U.S. met a hostile audience Thursday night in the tobacco-growing town in southern Virginia. Many accused federal officials of keeping the community in the dark about the plan to house up to 500 children in St. Paul’s College, which closed one year ago.

More than 47,000 children, primarily from Central America, have been apprehended at the Mexican border since the start of the budget year. The number of minors coming to the U.S. has soared, with administration officials saying it’s largely because of conditions in their home countries. But there’s also a belief among some of the migrants that they would be allowed to stay once in the U.S.

Local officials said they learned of the plan days ahead of when the first children were to arrive.

The program was put on hold after the private agreement became public.

A contrite panel of federal officials repeatedly apologized to hundreds of residents Thursday night, but few were placated. Many arrived with signs reading “No illegal immigrants.”

Federal officials called the St. Paul’s plan a humanitarian effort to shelter children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who are fleeing their homes by the tens of thousands to escape violence and poverty.

More than 47,000 children, primarily from Central America, have been apprehended at the Mexican border since the start of the budget year.

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