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Planning commission in mid-Michigan rejects housing migrants

August 19, 2021 GMT

ALMA, Mich. (AP) — The planning commission in a central Michigan community opposes a zoning change that would turn a former nursing home into temporary housing for boys who cross the U.S. border without parents.

Commissioners in Alma recommended, 4-2, that the request be denied Wednesday, following weeks of tension in the community and a public hearing that attracted hundreds of people. The Alma City Commission will make the final decision.

It would be unusual for the City Commission to go against a Planning Commission recommendation.

“I do not feel comfortable with granting this proposal, nor do I see any benefit to the health, safety, welfare or convenience to our citizens of Alma,” said Matt Schooley, city manager and a planning commissioner.

Bethany Christian Services wants to lease Warwick Living Center to provide housing for boys for up to 40 days or until a sponsor can be found. The boys, ages 12 to 17, crossed the southern U.S. border without parents or guardians and do not have legal status in this country.

Nancy O’Brien, a teacher for nearly 40 years, said the planning commission was acting on fear, radio station WCMU-FM reported.

“It gets me emotional,” she said. “I would want someone to take care of my children if, God forbid, a war broke out or anything like that happened to my family.”

There were cheers and applause after the planning commission voted.

“There’s too much at risk of enabling human trafficking. ... The best way to help them is to send them back to their country of origin, with their family,” Robi Rodriguez said.


This story has been corrected to change the attribution from Michigan Radio to WCMU-FM.