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Portland-Area Shelter For Immigrant Kids Opens Its Doors

Dirk VanderHart
A Portland-area shelter where federal officials send immigrant children is more dorm than detention facility.

Images of migrant children kept in detention centers near the border have stirred strong feelings around the country. But the Portland-area shelter where federal officials send immigrant children is very different.

There’s not an inch of chain-link fencing in a spacious facility run by Morrison Child and Family Centers. The building can house 70 immigrant teens at a time. It’s more dorm than detention facility, with tidy classrooms, recreations areas with couches and TVs—even a weight room.

Morrison has had a federal contract to help place unaccompanied immigrant children with local families for years. But CEO Drew Henrie-McWIlliams said people began protesting outside recently, when news broke that four kids who’d been split from their parents wound up in Portland. ??

“People just made assumptions that this wasn’t a good place for kids. We’re keeping kids from their families, when that was the opposite,” he said. “So that was hard.”

Morrison issued a statement this week saying it was “shocked, horrified, and heartbroken” by recent federal immigration policies.

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for OPB. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.