SC governor bars state from housing unaccompanied minors
South Carolina’s governor on Monday issued an executive order directing the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) to prevent federal officials from housing minors who arrived unaccompanied by parents or guardians at the U.S.-Mexico border into foster care or group homes in the state.
An executive order signed by Gov. Henry McMaster (R) states that DSS should “prevent placements of unaccompanied migrant children … into residential group care facilities or other foster care facilities” in the state due to the strain that such placements would cause on the state’s system.
In his order, McMaster also cited what he said were “questionable” COVID-19 testing procedures in federal migrant housing facilities as a reason for discouraging the housing of unaccompanied migrant children in state facilities.
The Kingstree News reported that McMaster’s order came in response to a letter to the governor from Brian Leach, the head of South Carolina’s DSS, who informed McMaster of the federal government’s request to transport an unspecified number of migrant children to the state for housing in state care facilities and foster homes.
“South Carolina’s children must always be given first priority for placement into foster care and the State’s strained resources must be directed to addressing the needs of its children,” McMaster wrote in a letter to Leach in response.
“Allowing the federal government to place an unlimited number of unaccompanied migrant children into our state’s child welfare system for an unspecified length of time is an unacceptable proposition,” he continued. “We’ve been down this road with the federal government before and the state usually ends up ‘on the hook.'”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) on Tuesday announced a similar decision to decline a federal request to house migrants in the state, though he did not go as far as issuing an executive order preventing the housing of unaccompanied minors in the future.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) April 13, 2021
The two governors’ decisions come as the Biden administration faces an influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border and as Republicans have sought to pressure the administration over the issue, which they see as a result of the president’s reversal of some Trump-era immigration policies.
Biden administration officials have rejected that diagnosis and have publicly urged migrants not to make the often dangerous and long journey to the U.S. border.