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. Scott

    This is rich! Politics at its worst...

    July 15, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Liberal hypocrisy at it's finest, Texas and California don't want them either. It's absolutely ridiculous already, your going to start seeing a Texas and California that's part of Mexico. Never mind that the cartels apparently have street operations in some american cities already. How can we have so many people in prison and still so much crime? I just don't understand, is it an endless incarceration cycle? Is it a cultural problem? God forbid a liberal tells me it's a socio economical problem.

    July 15, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  3. Seeing Red in a Blue State

    Maryland would be better off if Owe'Malley were deported.

    July 15, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  4. mutantsubhuman

    Just drop them in downtown Baltimore and they will be wanting to go home on their own.

    July 15, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  5. Loki

    He's basically a limousine liberal. Do as I say not as I do. Kinda like Hillary & Bill. On another note... no way. Send them back. Not interested in any new sorry tales of woe.

    July 15, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  6. sheila hartis

    Sheesh, sounds like a replay of the concerns of our rugged politicians who prior to WWII turned away boatloads of Jews including children and sent them back to certain death in the camps of Germany. Cowards all!!! And that goes for many Americans these days as well.

    July 15, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. Kristi Wallace

    Don't expedite their deportation, but don't send them to my state. Isn't that just like a democrat?

    July 15, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  8. Ann Wilson

    Many countries in the middle east have taken in refugees, what's wrong with us? These kids are refugees. It is a
    desperate measure to send your kids out of your country unaccompanied. We expect other countries to show
    compassion to refugees and some of those countries have far less resources than we do. Do the right thing,
    grant them asylum!

    July 15, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. Kilo

    Please be nice and let them stay! Not in my state though!

    July 15, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  10. McBob79

    This guy is a giant hypocrite, but most dems are. Do as I say not as I do.

    July 15, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  11. Mr. Izz

    There should only be one response to this article:


    July 15, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  12. typical

    typical democrat.

    July 15, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  13. scott

    illegal,illegal illegal immigrates

    July 15, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  14. Megan

    The man seems conflicted. We all feel compassion for children but he says keep them in the states but don't house them in my state? Its like they are unaware the Democratic party is now led by those for open borders. No one says it out loud but they are not sending the kids back unless politics necessitates that action. We are used to it in Texas and it seems normal but a lot of the northern states are in for a shock soon.

    July 15, 2014 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  15. andy

    So much for the party of 'acceptance'...

    July 15, 2014 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  16. Gyrogearloose


    July 15, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  17. Tigerflower

    This naïve individual certainly doesn't speak for Democrats everywhere. Someone needs to explain to him that the reason their current housing bears a resemblance to kennels is because we didn't have the funding to put them up at Hilton Suites. When you drop in uninvited expect to get what's available. It's an upgrade from the benches at the local bus depot.

    July 15, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  18. Sean

    And that my friend is a summary of the Democrats platform. Demand something be done, but you know, don't ask me to do it. Raise taxes, just not mine etc etc etc

    July 15, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  19. dnokc

    He's a typical liberal hypocrite....but correct! Don't send them to Maryland. Send 1/4 to Chicago, 1/4 to Detroit, 1/4 to Oakland, and 1/4 to D.C.! Blue states rejoice....your fundamental transformation is about to take place!

    July 15, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  20. luke, AZ

    Republicans=Hypocrisy . The tea party has hijacked the Republican party and become the new confederate party.

    July 15, 2014 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  21. tony

    wonder who asked for the clause be put in

    July 15, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. billbfit

    The absolute epitome of a Demoncrat. Talk big, but when it comes to your own personal politics, your own personal politics are all that matters. Disgusting people.

    July 15, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. sosupernova

    It sounds like this guy wants to sound good and compassionate but when push comes to shove, he puts up all kinds of stumbling blocks in the way of really solving the problem. Me thinks the man doth speak out of both sides of his mouth!

    July 15, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  24. AngelicaS

    What an absolute hypocrite! O'Malley is in favor of keeping these ILLEGALS in the U.S. but does not want them in Maryland. O'Malley says: Not in my back yard! He supports keeping the ILLEGALS within the U.S. so that some other states' citizens must bear the burden. I say: ship them directly to the Maryland Governor's mansion– then we'll see how long he wants them to remain in the U.S.

    July 15, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  25. Shawn

    Typical politician. He'll say what he thinks the voters want to hear, but he will in no way do what he says.

    July 15, 2014 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
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