WASHINGTON -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) pushed back this week on the White House for trying to "spin" his comments on unaccompanied minors after he criticized the administration's plans to speed up deportation of children and teenagers who had crossed the border illegally.
The statements, made to Fusion's Jorge Ramos in an interview that aired Tuesday evening, were the latest in a weekslong skirmish between the potential 2016 presidential candidate and the White House over how to deal with the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended since October while crossing the border illegally.
O'Malley frustrated the Obama administration by saying in July that the U.S. is "not a country that should send children away and send them back to certain death," while the president was making plans to deport children more quickly to deal with the influx.
CNN then reported that O'Malley had urged the administration not to send unaccompanied minors to a former Army Reserve Center in Westminster, Maryland. He was quickly criticized for urging compassion but also asking the administration not to move children and teenagers to his state.
O'Malley told Ramos that the White House had distorted what he said.
"Sadly, I think that was a spin and a misrepresentation that some at the White House tried to put out in order to discredit the larger point that I was making," he said in the interview.
O'Malley said his point was that "the law calls for placements in homes," and that was part of why he had opposed the placement of unaccompanied minors at the facility. Under the law, unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which attempts to place them in homes, often with family members, while their immigration proceedings continue.
Maryland is among the states that have accepted the highest numbers of unaccompanied minors, and O'Malley said it has the largest number per capita of any state. The state took in 2,205 unaccompanied minors between Jan. 1 and July 7, according to numbers released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The largest number of unaccompanied minors -- 4,280 -- have been placed in homes in Texas, with New York, Florida, California and Virginia also taking in more than 2,000.
O'Malley tweeted a "thank you" last month to those in Maryland who had taken in unaccompanied minors.
A sincere thank you to the MD families who've taken in migrant children fleeing violence. More kids here (per capita) than any other state.
— Martin O'Malley (@GovernorOMalley) July 28, 2014
O'Malley said on Fusion that he would be open to "more hospitable places" in Maryland to house unaccompanied minors, noting that the site that was being considered was sprayed with graffiti that said "No Illeagles Here. No Undocumented Democrats."
"The particular site that I was waving the White House off of is a site where some really hateful graffiti was sprayed on buildings, and I believe there are more hospitable places if congregate settings is what the White House continues to look for. There are other places in Maryland that would be more hospitable than that location," he said in the interview.
Watch the interview above.