(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.
Interesting: :Keep them: but not in myback yard". May sound harsh to some but these people need to go back to their home country.
'Don't send them back so we can paint the Republicans as being racists, but don't send them here we don't want the problem of taking care of them.'
We understand liberal Democrats perfectly.
Typical liberal. Liberals are for any good will project as long as they do not have to pay for it or be inconvenienced
I believe the appropriate acronym is NIMBY as in Not In My Back Yard.
typical of OweMally, He says we should take these kids in and then refuses to take any.
At least O'Malley is not claiming, like Prince William County in VA, that there are already hundreds of these children in their National Guard Armory buildings.
NOT true but when has that stopped the christian right wing bible nutsos?
Does not bode well for his presidential aspirations, apparently no one knows who he is. As for the quote from the republican congressman, he should no that under the law the president cannot send them back immediately or at least he should.
Typical hypocritical Dim. They want you to pay, but not them.
Wonder how many immigrant advocates would open their home to those children, my guess is none.
Yes, kennels compared to the many Americans that are kenneless! Get these kids back to their home country. We can't afford/absorb the cost of their care.
BTW all you haters out there, shrub #43 was the one who started this back in 2007 when he signed an order that citizensof countries that DO NOT border the US could seek refuge in the US. They still didn't get the 2008 latino vote though.
The problem is that many of these haters, who probably can't find the map of the US on a world map, don't realize that Honduras and El Salvador do NOT border the US.
I see them yelling for the Mexicans to stay in their own country. Talk about bunching people from different countries together Our education system needs a huge revamping and that Latino/Hispanic word needs to go the way of the Doo Doo. Not that it would help them.
Shocking. A politician puts on a show for the public, does the opposite off the mic.
Open mouth insert foot! Every politician who thinks we should shelter these children should be forced to take them home with them and become responsible for them until they are of legal age and they become legal citizens. When will the government realize that the majority of US citizens are tired of the illegal immigrants pouring into our country and our governments lack of action. Pull your collective heads out of your collective butts and do your damn jobs!!!
Let's remember that this problem with "unaccompanied minors" is based a bill supported by the Republicans, and signed into law by George W Bush. Obama is simply attempting to handle the problem within the ridged confines of that law.
It's good to know that anyone in America can break the law and then go in front of a judge and say, "If I go to jail, I face certain death"...and then the judge will set them free. Thanks for the precedent.
Another Democratic NIMBY (Not in my back yard). Come on you Democratic hypocrites, stand up an be counted.
typical liberal hypocrite. the astonishing thing is, they dont see anything wrong with it.
Obandon caused this problem with his, I guess you could call it immigration policies, call to ICE telling them not to enforce current laws. The only answer he has is to raise taxes, spend money that we borrow, and to blame someone else.
This whole matter has been a giant cluster. When will the Obama administration realize that the American people do not want these ILLEGALS in their state or in their country.
How about sending them to Joe Biden's estate in Maryland? Mrs. Biden has a shotgun to keep the unruly in line and Joe could amuse them with his insightful commentary. Where is Hillary while all this is going on? Even Jesse Jackson (Sr., not the one in jail) has commented.
So they deem the south and GOP racist..yet these northern states don't want..Was being racist.
hahahahahahhah....typical. are harry and nancy offering their districts / states as new homesteads for their new voters?
don't send them back but I don't want them in my back yard. I am sure he is not the only politician saying the same thing, he just got caught saying it.
He needs to get more exposure, he's got a good head on his shoulders, the next president? You never know, the gop has nothing, all are unelectable, especially Christie.