Rich Fitzgerald backs Holy Family Institute's plan to shelter immigrant children



A Roman Catholic group's plan to temporarily house immigrant children from Central America in Emsworth has the support of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

"Our county was built on the backs of immigrants who came here for a new life. It is part of our makeup to respond generously and compassionately to a humanitarian crisis," Mr. Fitzgerald said in a statement released by the county this morning. "We are proud of the part that our community has played, and continues to play, in response to the tragedies experienced by families during [Hurricane] Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti."

The same statement was read on his behalf Tuesday night, during a hearing held at Sacred Heart Church in Emsworth. In response to a request by the federal government, Holy Family Institute plans to house immigrant children from Central America, who have come to the United States unaccompanied by their parents.

The Institute has said it plans to shelter up to three dozen immigrants at a time. The immigrants in question are all age 12 or younger. Some county residents have told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they are concerned that the children could bring disease or gang affiliations to the Pittsburgh area.

The Post-Gazette reported today that similar concerns have been expressed in Harrisburg, where 21 Republican House members wrote to the state's congressional delegation that they were concerned the presence of immigrant children could pose a threat to public safety in the state.

Here in Pittsburgh, however, local officials have voiced their support. Mayor Bill Peduto issued a statement Tuesday saying he supports the work of the Holy Family Institute.

Mr. Fitzgerald expressed his backing of the plan as well in a lengthy statement today, saying it is necessary for the Pittsburgh community to provide support while President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress seek a solution for what has become a widespread issue: unaccompanied children from Central America arriving at the American border.

"These are children who are seeking to escape violence and poverty," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "We can, and should, be understanding and tolerant of that while their futures are being decided. We are, after all, human."

Mr. Fitzgerald said his administration will assist the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at the Holy Family Institute "in any appropriate manner." He said he also plans to meet with community members about the issue.


First Published July 30, 2014 12:00 AM

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