(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.
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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.
We're a Christian nation. Surely we won't turn our backs on these children, will we?
Liberals. The original and still the best NIMBY's.
This guy is obviously not very smart.
Typical dem, "not in my back yard," hypocrisy.
Why would we send them to Maryland ,
didn't we send the somalis there , or was it the Iraqi Chaldeans , or was it the Vietnamese , or Cambodians , or the Afghanis , maybe it was the Cubans , where did we send the Irish , and what about the Jews ?
So much turmoil in the world today.
THE RENT IS TOO DAM HIGH !
I love the world, it's just people I really do not care for...
What compassion ! NOT ! Another phony Pol saying one thing for the vote, another for reality.
Send them back to where they came from. Make the message loud and clear so the problem doesn't continue.
Perfect summation of the modern Democratic party.
Typical liberal. He supports short-sighted policies in the hopes of being seen as compassionate and tolerant, just so long as said policies don't effect him in any way.
Awwww, don't you WANT these horrible disease-ridden illegal CRIMINALS near YOUR house, O'Malley?!!
These kids and all these people have been well coached on what to tell ICE......."""If we go back we will be forced into gangs and killed"""...............and what happens next is that we give them a free pass and a big hug and told come back in 6 months and we will talk again !
Hey CNN instead of making me waste my time reading this long article, you should of just said ~ Government official was moving his lips, (another lie told) 'Boom story finished,
I agree with the Governor and Andy Harris, send those kids back home, are they checking them to see what kind of diseases they may have if any? we have enough to deal with here in Maryland, there are children here that needs food and shelter, we are generous people but we need to stop taking on everyone else's problems.
Send the illegal brats back.
typical liberal, always willing to spend someone else's money; it is always someone else's responsibility to pay for programs they enact.never in their backyard, but demand that everyone else does it.
Poor journalism with this article. O'Malley didn't say don't send then to Maryland. He said don't send them to that specific site, and to consider a different site in Maryland. The Westminster area is a very conservative, racist area, and those children would be in danger.
Compassion, but not in MY backyard?
"great world religions" Stop using religion to do your job. Religion got us into this problem because the "great religion" prohibits artificial birth control.
Typical liberal response, "Somebody ELSE needs to 'do something'!"
how come American commercials it say,s for 1 dollar a day they can feed ,cloth and educate a child ,that's 365 dollars for one year ,but in America it cost 60,000 dollars a year.maybe their asking the wrong people to do the job or someone is pocketing a lot of money.
More layers of lies then an onion. He is fully delude and proud of it. What ever he is, it stinks like poop.
This is CNNs only story on the border flood? Heir Gobles would be proud of your work.
Another example of "not in my backyard". Total politician. But did we expect anything more?