The United States is seeing a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border, and some of them have been placed in South Dakota.
However, state officials don't know who the children are, where they came from, or where they are staying. Governor Dennis Daugaard's office found out Thursday that the federal government has sent 21 undocumented children to South Dakota.
As many as 50,000 undocumented and unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America have crossed the border this year as they escape gang violence that is tightening its grip on the region.
"They are hard cases and it's hard to put people back in their home country, but that's the way the law is set up for right now," Sioux Falls immigration attorney Henry Evans said.
The children are placed with family and friends in the United States while they await deportation proceedings. Evans says that's when the children have to state their case as to why they should stay in the United States.
"The child would have to show relief from removal; why the child should not be removed from the United States," Evans said.
Daugaard's office expressed concern Friday over the 21 children the feds have placed in South Dakota. A spokesman says federal officials promised to notify the state about immigrant children placed here, but they never did.
"It's certainly our hope that the federal government beginning now will do a better job of keeping state officials up to date about where these children are being placed," Tony Venhuizen, Director of Policy and Communications with Daugaard's office said.
No State funding or resources are being used to house the children according to the governor's office.
Evans says federal officials plan to fast-track the cases.
"We've been advised that the government basically is putting the children as the top priority to get them processed and out of the country safely and securely," Evans said.
The federal government tells state officials the children who have been placed in South Dakota have been screened and vaccinated. However, Governor Daugaard's office would like more information.