Mayor Reed supports unaccompanied, illegal immigrant kids in Atlanta

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ATLANTA - Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says there should be no debate – unaccompanied, undocumented immigrant children who cross the border into the U.S. should have a home in the city of Atlanta.

Reed held a news conference on the issue Tuesday afternoon at City Hall.

He said the city of Atlanta will be a safe place for the unattended children. Reed’s comments came after Gov. Nathan Deal recently sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to stop sending unaccompanied illegal children to Georgia.

"I'm going to send a message in no uncertain terms that these children need a safe place, and a safe haven. The city of Atlanta is going to be that," he said.

Reed said it's the moral and right thing to do.

“The fact of the matter is, we have a growing immigrant population in the metropolitan region and in the state, and it's very important that we send a signal that we're going to be a welcoming community and we're going to allow these folks to be trained and treat them well," said Reed.

Deal’s office said 1,154 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children have been placed in Georgia.  

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston wanted to ask the governor about Reed’s comments, but his staff said he would address the issue Wednesday.

"I haven't read the governor’s letter, but I’m not surprised. We’re just on a different place on this," Reed said.

Wednesday afternoon, Reed's office released a statement saying:

"The influx of unaccompanied minors at the border is a humanitarian crisis. These are children with futures so bleak and uncertain in their home countries that it is preferable for them to risk their lives for the mere hope of safety and shelter within our borders. As an international city, and one with a strong tradition of civil and human rights as home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta must lead and do our part to provide humanitarian care for children who are vulnerable while they receive the due process that is required by our laws.

We cannot have open borders, but at the same time, this large influx, and the high rate of asylum claims in surrounding countries in Central America, indicate that there are genuine dangers driving this crisis.  The federal government is working hard to place children in settings where they can be cared for by families while they await the opportunity to present their case in a court of law.  Just over 1,000 children have been placed in Georgia, where they are with extended family members and federally funded foster families who are providing for their financial needs and care while they await determination of their legal status.  Many churches, non-profits, and other citizens are also reaching out with concern and gestures of good will.

This is an emotionally charged issue, but it is at times like these that cities and nations show who they really are.  And I know that the people of Atlanta have compassion and goodness in their hearts.  That is why we are willing to do our part to care for vulnerable children while their best interests are determined in a manner consistent with the laws of the United States.”