Vigil for immigrant children held in BC as House passes bill

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Just over an hour ago, House Republicans passed a last-minute bill to address the immigration crisis. Democrats and President Obama are calling it a sham.

The nearly $700 million bill includes tough provisions that could threaten deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants working in the U.S. legally.

But the vote isn't expected to go anywhere because the Senate went home for vacation without voting on immigration at all. President Obama says he'll act on his own to address the crisis.

It's an issue weighing heavy on the minds of many in West Michigan.

Newschannel 3's Julia Fello was at a vigil in Battle Creek Friday, where some people call this a crisis that can't be ignored.

Nearly 100 people held vigil for the estimated 80,000 children walking for one month or more -- by themselves. The goal was to keep the speech non-political, but it was hard not to.

Leaders that include the health department and W.K. Kellogg Foundation joined the crowd in downtown Battle Creek. They took a stand with the children and help others understand why some, as young as 4 years old, have been walking through deserts and alligator-infested rivers to get to the Texas border, alone, with no food or water.

Voices executive director Kate Flores says, "If they're living in violence or under the threat of violence. They're in areas where there's murder, kidnapping and rape. These are situations where, what else would they do, to be able to have an opportunity?"

Parents at this event say it's become a crisis that's at our front doors but is still being ignored.

Battle Creek mother Nikki Rinckey says, "As a mom, if I had to do the same -- what kind of situation, how terrible it must be for families to send their children."

Many of those children may soon be headed to Michigan. A non-profit organization in Bay City just landed a federal contract to house two dozen undocumented immigrant children from Central America.

Wellspring CEO David Gehm says, "Everything they need will will be done here on site, including schooling and tutoring and work with our clinicians cause they've been through trauma."

Some who live in this area welcome these children, but others are frustrated more isn't being done to stop this influx of illegal immigration at the border. These children could stay here for up to three months.

"They'll certainly be into the social services, you can rest assured of that. That all means more tax money for all of us," says one man against housing the children in Michigan.

But those at Friday night's vigil say these children can't be ignored.

Flores says, "We need to be able to think, these are our children. What would we want for our children{>}"

After three months, the children sent to Bay City may be connected with a U.S. family member, placed in a federal program, or returned to their home country.