July 15th, 2014
07:43 PM ET
4 years ago

First on CNN: After criticizing White House over unaccompanied minors, Martin O'Malley said don't send them to Maryland site

(CNN) – After his strong criticism of the Obama administration's plans to return thousands of young undocumented migrants back to Central America, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley asked a top White House official that the children not be sent to a site that was under consideration in his home state, sources familiar with the conversation said.

"He privately said 'please don't send these kids to Western Maryland,'" a Democratic source told CNN. The heated discussion between O'Malley and White House domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz occurred during a phone call late Friday evening, sources familiar with the conversation added.

A potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, O'Malley surprised some in his party when he sharply criticized a White House proposal to give new legal authorities to the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the deportation of the unaccompanied minors and their families.

“We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death,” O’Malley said last week at a National Governors Association meeting in Nashville.

Instead, the governor urged the administration to show compassion toward the children, describing some of the facilities where the young detainees are being kept as "kennels."

“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said.

Hours after making those remarks, O'Malley expressed concerns to Munoz about a proposal under consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services to convert a former Army Reserve Center in Westminster, Maryland to house the children.

A senior O'Malley administration official confirmed the conversation took place. But the official stressed O'Malley did not reject the idea of temporarily housing some of the children in other parts of the state.

"Governor O’Malley and his administration are working cooperatively with federal officials to find suitable locations in Maryland for unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America," said O'Malley press secretary Nina Smith. "As he has said repeatedly, he believes the priority should be placing children with family members and–if that’s not possible–locating housing that is safe, humane, and non-restrictive," she added.

The HHS plan stirred up outrage among local elected officials in Maryland, including Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, whose office cited "potential health risks" to the surrounding community.

"Flying them to Maryland only to turn around and fly them back home is nonsensical. Instead, President Obama should immediately return them to their nation of origin," Harris said in a statement.

HHS has since scuttled the plan for the Western Maryland site, an O'Malley official said.

In response to O'Malley's comments, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday some of the unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the United States from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in recent months may ultimately be allowed to stay in the country, if they can qualify for asylum status.

Migrants from Central America and other non-contiguous nations are granted special legal protections that allow them to plead their case to an immigration court, under a 2008 law designed to prevent human trafficking.

“If an immigration judge determines that they face a credible threat of death upon their return to their home country, then again, I’m not an immigration judge, but it is likely that the immigration judge will find that that person should be granted humanitarian relief,” Earnest said.

A senior O'Malley administration official acknowledged the governor's comments last Friday irritated senior White House officials, prompting the call from Munoz to O'Malley.

But the governor's press secretary emphasized O'Malley has offered Obama administration officials his state's assistance in dealing with the crisis.

“Governor O’Malley has been discussing this issue for weeks with the White House, he has helped identify ways Maryland can assist with this humanitarian crisis, and he has directed the Maryland Department of Human Resources to take the steps necessary to find licensed providers who might be able to care for these children in Maryland," Smith said.

CNN’s David Chalian contributed to this report.

Filed under: Immigration • Martin O'Malley • White House
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. bill

    biden only donated $5,500 in an entire year--says it all.

    July 15, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  2. Hooper

    Hypocracy, wears many coats. Again we are viewed by the rest of the people on the planet, as if we had two heads and were tainted with a green hue.

    July 15, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  3. jenn,philadelphia

    The left is amazing. They want the illegal immigrants to have their day in court, without acknowledging that almost 80% aren't expected to even appear at those hearings.

    July 15, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. anthony78

    "Don't send them home, but don't send them here...."

    July 15, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. Chris..E.al

    It seems the dems are giving food stamp cards now and busing them to wal mart ? Watch video . Down with the dems .

    July 15, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Guess he doesn't have the stomach for aiding and abetting the people smuggling.

    July 15, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    Mercilessly DEPORT. These foreigners are raping our SS, Medicare. Abusing our system. Period.

    July 15, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  8. davidfarrar

    WE WANT OUR CHILDREN BACK! say the central American countries where these children originated. We should send them all back into the care, custody and control of the government officials of these countries to await their US immigration hearings.

    I am sure David Starling, the owner of the Kansas City Southern, the company that owns the Mexican Line called, "The Beast" can offer some suggestions if he was threatened with being changed as an accessory to trafficking in children on how best and safely to transport all of these children back to their hometowns.

    ex animo

    July 15, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  9. Chris..E.al

    Tell you what just take all the illegals to Chicago and if the cops dont change their mind the the foodstamp drug mob will ? Or maybe just translate the News paper 4 them by by ? America will become Chicago and D.C. and CA. with the help of dems . Look at what they are trying to do to Texas on purpose and Az . Feds are sueing these states 4 just trying 2 survive I wishd i could say what i wanted 2 on here ? thk you

    July 15, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  10. HenryMiller

    Typical Leftist hypocrisy: always willing to "do good"—as long as it's at someone else's expense.

    July 15, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  11. Gunderson

    Not in my back yard !!

    July 15, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  12. S. B. Stein

    It is a bit of NIMBY and a bit of why spread them along the entire country. There is some level of understandable concern.

    July 15, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. KG

    Pathetic, every last one of them.

    July 15, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. Jack

    This is a no win situation

    July 15, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  15. equus6

    so, isn't it surprising you can read through this entire article and notice the author does not one time identify the GOV as a member of the Democratic party..the headline would be quite different if he was a member of the GOP

    July 15, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  16. Jerome

    Pretty typical of politics in America...

    July 15, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  17. Pano

    They are illegal aliens. No euphemism will change the fact they have no legal right to be present here.

    July 15, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  18. Foolmemore

    Martin O'Malley is a hypocrite. Wait, he's a democrat. Sorry, for being redundant.

    July 15, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  19. WhineO

    As Obama moves his illegal immigrants throughout the country, they need to be ship to Maryland and Maryland only. It appears that their Governor wants to:
    – devastate his pubic school systems by flooding them with illegal immigrants
    – bankrupt the hospital systems by flooding their emergency rooms with illegal immigrants
    – wipe out tax funds that could have been used for US Citizens but would have to be diverted to illegal immigrant assistance programs.
    He wanted it... He needs to get it.

    July 15, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  20. Dark Poet

    LOL these people can't make up their minds!!! I say send them back!!! It isn't our fault they are in the mess they are in and we could of used the money WASTED on something better. like re-building our electrical infrastructure.

    July 15, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  21. Alicia

    Why can't international adoption procedures and laws be made simpler so that these children can be legally adopted by Americans and Canadians? If it was easier to adopt from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, there would be less children illegally pouring into Mexico and over our border. More children would be assigned a loving family that chose to adopt because they have the resources to support a child.

    July 15, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  22. narchais

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Even the Democrats don't want them! And why should they? The plan is to drop them in Republican states in order to increase their liberal voter population there to take control!

    July 15, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  23. MilitaryAF

    All the kids that will go before an immigration judge will all be found to face credible threat of death. BUT keep in mind, they faced a higher threat of death by crossing mexico on foot to cross our border. They're tough kids. Many are in gangs back home. Send them back. They'll do just fine.

    July 15, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  24. asdf

    NIMBY (not in my back yard) is exactly why this is such a problem.

    July 15, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. Clay

    Typical politician....cannot make up his mind – based on which direction the political winds are blowing that day. GROW A PAIR AND TAKE A STAND.

    July 15, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
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