Citizens organizing to support immigrant children held in Ventura County

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Private citizens are helping immigrant children as the number unaccompanied kids crossing illegally into the U.S. grows.

Private citizens are helping immigrant children in Ventura County as the number unaccompanied kids from Central America crossing illegally into the U.S. grows.

The U.S. is housing 7,600 of the children in total in places like Texas and here in Southern California at Naval Base Ventura County, where nearly 100 of them are being held without their parents.

Jessica Flanagan started the Facebook group "Kids Housed At The Base," rallying the Ventura County community to donate to the children.

"My heart went out to the kids," Flanagan said. "They've been through so much."

On the day after she started the page, it had 100 members, and donations started pouring in as people dropped off clothing, hygiene kits and other items.

"I understand that this is a really politically charged topic, but at the end of the day they're just children, and it's up to our community to make sure that kids are being taken care of, no matter where they came from," said Flanagan.

The crisis is sparking heated debate in Washington. Critics claim the Obama administration's immigration policies are to blame, including the DREAM Act, which defers deportation for some children.

Teresa Telles is director of the Center for Employment Training in Oxnard. She volunteered her facility to sort and store the donations.

"These children, they deserve a chance," said Telles.

But they can't actually get the supplies to kids because of the bureaucratic red tape.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does work with some non-governmental organizations to provide goods and services, but there's no guarantee the donations will go to any one location or group.

Amber Bowyer helped form a coalition in an effort to get access to the minors, calling on politicians and reaching out in any way she can.

"We're very impatient, because children are pouring in every day," said Bowyer. "There's over 90 kids there right now who might have a basketball court, but have many more needs."

In 2011, 6,560 unaccompanied minors were detained crossing the border illegally. But by the end of this year, an estimated 60,000 will have made the dangerous journey.

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