LAKEWOOD - More than 1,500 undocumented children have been placed in New Jersey so far this year.
They are among those who crossed the Mexican border without a parent and were sent to stay with relatives or family friends.
A report released Thursday shows 1,504 unaccompanied children were placed in the Garden State through July 7. A total of 30,340 have crossed the Mexican border from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras without parents in the first half of this year alone.
Jorge Rod, the publisher of a weekly newspaper called Latinos Unidos de Nueva Jersey, knows a few families in Monmouth and Ocean Counties who have taken in children of relatives. "Survival, that's what it is," he says. "These kids are trying to survive. I mean it's a very dangerous situation."
The families choose not to talk about their experiences. They are too afraid the publicity could hurt them, because some are in this country illegally.
They are responsible for feeding, clothing, and making sure the kids attend immigration hearings, even if they themselves are undocumented. Gov. Chris Christie spoke about the issue at a governor's forum in Colorado.
"I think we all feel a great deal of sympathy for these children, but can we use some plain common sense?" Christie said. "You don't need a Harvard degree to figure out that if you're going to ensure that they go to their immigration hearing, that you may want to send them to someone who has actually complied with the immigration laws."
Other governors expressed sympathy for the children too, but said it wasn't fair that states were then responsible for providing them health care and an education.
Members of the Latino community in Lakewood say turning the kids away would be worse. "It's definitely a good thing that Lakewood families, New Jersey families are willing to take care of these kids," says Lucy Ramirez.
New Jersey took in more of the children than almost any other state. Texas took in the most with more than 4,200 placements.