Columbia mayor welcomes immigrant children

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin says the capital city needs to be ready to accept immigrant children who illegally entered the country.

Recently, thousands of unaccompanied children have flowed across the U.S.-Mexico border. Approximately 350 of those children have already been released to sponsors in South Carolina.

Mayor Benjamin says the region needs be prepared should more children be transferred to the Palmetto State.

"The city of Columbia believes that we have a duty to protect our children and provide for them...regardless of where he or she was born," Benjamin said, in part, in a one-page draft of the resolution.

Governor Nikki Haley has been critical of the nation's handing of the immigration crisis, blasting the cost factor attached to caring for the undocumented children.

Councilman Brian Dequincey Newman says city leaders should be mindful of the potential cost of taking on refugee children, but echoes Benjamin's stance that Columbia has a duty to care for those less fortunate.

"I think that most of us know that Columbia is truly a nurturing community," said Newman. "So if we have a situation where there is a child here that's displaced, I think we all need to pay attention to that and make sure we're prepared to help."

Columbia has a history of accepting people who have been displaced by a variety of circumstances. Almost a decade ago, hundreds of people moved to the Midlands after Hurricane Katrina slammed the New Orleans. Both Columbia leaders and the University of South Carolina helped with their transition. Also, in the early 2000s, several Somali Bantu families relocated to the area with the assistance of city officials.

Mayor Benjamin's resolution goes before Columbia city council on Tuesday.