Rita Dentino, Executive Director of Casa Freehold said her comments reported in the Sentinel and other Greater Media newspapers regarding a steady stream of unaccompanied Central American Youth arriving in Freehold Borough were not reported accurately. MMM relied on those reports earlier this week when reporting on the situation and State Senator Jennifer Beck’s response.
During an interview in her Freehold office, Dentino said that to her knowledge there has been only one refugee child, a 16 year old boy, that has arrived in Freehold from Central America since the first of the year and that there is no parade of children arriving at a rate of one per day. The Sentinel reported that Dentino said there were 5-10 young refugees in the Borough and that more were arriving daily. Denton told MMM that the 5-10 figure represents all young Central American youth that have come to Freehold over the last 11 years that she has worked at Casa Freehold, not a recent influx due to the situation on the United States’ southern border.
Dentino questioned the published reports that there have been 1500 Central American children sent to New Jersey from the border since the first of the year. “There maybe 1500 over a 10 year period, but not all of a sudden, ” Dentino said, “the media is not accurately reporting the timing of these arrivals.”
“He’s terrified,” Dentino said of the 16 year old boy who arrived in June, “he fled a horrific situation in his country and crossing the border is terrifying. There are deaths on our border all the time. He is a refugee. He has no legal guardian.” The boy is staying with a family he met on his journey from the border to Freehold.
Dentino said that she does not expect the boy, or any of the children from Central America that she is aware of will enroll in the Freehold Borough Schools. Those who go to school go to Colts Neck High School where they have a program for students who do not speech English, she said. “100% of the arrivals here have not gone to the Freehold Borough Schools. This is not an issue that should be used in the Freehold School referendum.”
“The is not a Freehold issue. It is a United States issue. These children are refugees on the borders of the United States. U.S. law says that children from non-contiguous countries, Mexico and Canada, who show up on our border are entitled to apply for refugee status. We need to welcome these refugees with love.”
Dentino said that guardianship for refugee children is not a matter that is handled by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), as was reported in the Sentinel, but rather by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Casa Freehold assists refugees and the families that are caring for them in applying for asylum.