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McMaster blocks feds from bringing unaccompanied kids from border to South Carolina

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 2:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Monday instructing the state’s Department of Social Services to prevent the federal government from placing undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border into foster care and group homes.

McMaster, who just returned from visiting the southern border, issued the order after consulting with DSS on the state child welfare system’s capacity to accommodate an influx of minors, according to a release from the governor’s office.

In a letter dated April 8, DSS Director Michael Leach told McMaster about the federal government’s “preliminary inquiries to transport an unknown number of unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border and place them in South Carolina foster care and group homes licensed by DSS,” the release states.

“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 responded in a message to Leach. “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. We’ve been down this road with the federal government before and the state usually ends up ‘on the hook.’” McMaster also wants the agency determine any potential risks posed to our state’s child welfare system and to provide him with potential avenues to mitigate them.

McMaster determined potential risks outlined in another letter from Leach, coupled with what his office called the Biden Administration’s “inability to address the growing humanitarian crisis on the border,” left the state “no choice but to act,” the release states.

McMaster’s office said those risks include, but are not limited to:

  • An influx of minors occupying foster care placements and services would necessarily strain the State’s capacity for timely and stable placements of South Carolina children who enter the agency’s care.
  • The federal government plans to financially incentivize private providers in the short term to the extent that these facilities may prioritize the placement of unaccompanied migrant children over DSS-related placements.
  • The State may ultimately incur a long-term financial burden if families are not located in a timely manner and the federal government ceases providing direct support for unaccompanied minors.

McMaster visited members of South Carolina’s 2-151st Aviation Regiment of the South Carolina National Guard who are serving at the southern border last week.

His office said McMaster also received in-person briefings from senior military leadership “charged with supporting and supplementing federal efforts to secure the southern border.” He later posted to his Twitter account that recent events at the border “a humanitarian crisis” and said “inaction is putting our national security at risk.”

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