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Meijer and Calhoun County Sheriff Discuss Impact of Border Crisis on West Michigan, Sheriff decries lack of funding for local law enforcement to manage unaccompanied migrant children

May 6, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, and Accountability, today asked questions of Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley regarding the ongoing border crisis’ impact on West Michigan. Their exchange was specifically related to the 100 unaccompanied migrant children housed at Starr Commonwealth in Albion.

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MEIJER: Sheriff Hinkley, in your testimony, you outlined a few challenges that you have been confronted with in Michigan as a result of housing immigrant children at Starr Commonwealth. The Biden Administration has opened several Emergency Intake Sites like this in order to help the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deal with the influx of unaccompanied children coming to the southern border this year.

Could you please talk a little more about the challenges that these actions have posed for you and your department?

HINKLEY: Absolutely. This is an interesting situation. […] Let me start off by saying this has been a fantastic relationship. We’ve had great communication, but the issue is surrounding funding. We were trying to make sure that all state law obligations were met with the children on the campus at Starr Commonwealth. In a crisis or emergency, law enforcement must be involved. Starr Commonwealth initially asked for a community services officer to be on the campus, to be plugged in, and then they found out there is absolutely no funding to make that happen.

Our intent was to make sure that all state law guidelines were being met with these children. Everyone had the same goal here for success; we just did not have the funding to make it happen. There are so many other things […] in the county that are going to be affected by this, and there is no funding to offset it.

MEIJER: Were you under the impression that these were well-developed plans, or something that was put together in haste?

HINKLEY: It was very, very unexpected. If we had to do this over again, I would’ve rather had this conversation a month out so we could establish plans and how federal laws interact with state laws to ensure everything was taken care of. It just didn’t happen. It was very unexpected, and when you’re in the middle of a budget cycle for your own department and you’re asked to provide more services without the funding to make it happen […] it’s a crisis here at our agency trying to make sure all needs are met.