BRISTOW, Va. — Corey Stewart, who made his name in politics by implementing what he calls the nation’s “toughest” crackdown on illegal immigration, lives in a house steeped in history.
The top elected official in Virginia’s second-largest locality, Stewart resides in the oldest house in Prince William County, located abruptly off a road lined with typical suburban American homes.
George Washington and his wife, Martha, honeymooned on what is now Stewart’s 25-acre estate, in the house built in 1740.
Thomas Jefferson spent a summer living here. Today an American flag stands tall in the back yard.
Stewart, the Republican chairman of Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors, spoke to The Daily Signal in the Parlor Room of his home for a sit-down interview about an immigration trend that especially bothers him: Thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America have been crossing the U.S-Mexico border illegally — and some are housed temporarily in his jurisdiction.
Some 15 miles from Stewart’s home — about 45 miles from Washington, D.C. – just under 100 of those immigrant minors reside on the campus of Youth for Tomorrow, a Bristow-based, Christian nonprofit group founded by Joe Gibbs, the legendary two-time head coach of the Washington Redskins.
Stewart said he is all for helping children. But he is upset that the Obama administration has been “secretive” about relocating the children here, saying:
The federal government never bothered to tell us that they would be dumping this problem on us and housing these children in our community.
At a Board of Supervisors meeting July 15, Stewart directed County Executive Melissa Peacor to launch a fact-finding mission to determine how and why the nation’s border crisis had touched Prince William County.
From Peacor’s conversations with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Stewart learned that Gibbs’s Youth for Tomorrow has had a federal contract to shelter unaccompanied immigrant children since 2012.
The program for those children is run by HHS, and the agency doesn’t allow Youth for Tomorrow — or any other nonprofit sheltering such minors — to speak with the media or allow access to its facilities.
HHS denied permission for The Daily Signal to enter the Youth for Tomorrow building.
Through its Office of Refugee Resettlement, HHS awards grants to a network of nonprofits across the country, many of them faith-based, to operate temporary shelters for immigrant children.
Aiming to increase its capacity, the refugee office on Aug. 5 closed an application process to award another $350 million in grants to nonprofits.
That money will be distributed among the 60 nonprofits that win the grants and the opportunity to house children for 36 months.
Stewart said he doesn’t blame Youth for Tomorrow for taking advantage of such a grant:
We don’t see this as a problem with Youth for Tomorrow or any other private organization that [is] trying to step up to the plate and fulfill a federal government contract.
In fact, it was an official from Youth for Tomorrow who told Stewart that immigrant kids were living there.
The children there, as at all of the temporary shelters, stay for an average of 35 days before they are released to family or a sponsor anywhere in the country.
There have been no reports of children with health problems at the Bristow facility, and the kids get a medical screening before arriving.
The children attend a private, accredited school run by Youth for Tomorrow on its campus.
No local, state, or federal Medicaid funds are used to support the children and there are no plans to ask for local government services, an HHS official told Peacor.
In random interviews, Bristow residents told The Daily Signal that they support Youth for Tomorrow’s efforts, and don’t expect the children there will disrupt their community. One, Michelle Irwin, said:
I have no problem with them doing the right thing. If [the children] are actually going to come into the community and give back and be good citizens, I think that organization will help them do that.
Stewart said it’s the Obama administration’s lack of communication and transparency that bothers him:
We’re not particularly concerned about problems the kids might be causing. But what we are concerned about is that the federal government has been so secretive about this, and we don’t know if this is the tip of iceberg. It’s 80 children now, but it could be hundreds later.
- Steve Weyrich of The Daily Signal co-produced the video.