Iowa Juvenile Home group wants to house immigrant children - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Juvenile Home group wants to house immigrant children

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TOLEDO (KWWL) -

The Toledo group that that fought to keep the now-closed Iowa Juvenile Home open says they'd like to see the facility re-purposed to house immigrant children from Central America.

"Very simply, it just makes sense," said Dave Nagle, a representative of the "Keep IJH Open" group.

Gov. Terry Branstad closed the facility several months ago amid allegations of abuse by staff. Still, some say the facility served an important role in the life of at-risk youth.

This new push comes after revelations that approximately 100 children that came into the country illegally have been placed in Iowa.

Initial reports were that 122 children were placed here by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but Sen. Chuck Grassley's office said they were told it was 139 children.

Branstad has been emphatic that he does not want these children in the state. Thursday, he and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds sent a letter to President Obama protesting the placements.

“We are deeply empathetic for the unaccompanied alien children who are coming to the United States for a better life,” Branstad and Reynolds wrote. “However, the lack of a secure border and sound immigration policy is sending a signal of false hope to the unaccompanied alien children.”

Currently, none of the children in Iowa are in state-run facilities.

Approximately 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the southern border in the last six months. Many of them are held in processing facilities near the border.

Nagle said the juvenile facility is the perfect solution to the issue, with ample housing and recreation space to serve children. Nagle also said the Tama/Toledo community is ready to welcome children in need.

"They're used to serving a significant volume of young people," he said.

"Gov. Branstad has said the state isn’t making any preparations to house illegal immigrants in state facilities," said Jimmy Centers, Branstad's Communications Director.

There's currently no formal political push in the Iowa Legislature to open the home.

Nagle said the group is looking for community reaction, and plans to reach out to local churches that are working with immigrant children.

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