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Community Weighs In On Site Selection For Immigrant Children

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
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GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) - Lamar School in Grand Prairie has housed both elementary school and alternative school students during the last few decades.

“When it was an alternative school, we had trouble with some of the students wandering away during the day time, coming to the houses when no one was home. There were things missing from houses, the church across the street was broken into more than once,” said Debbie Gause, whose children attended the elementary many years ago.

Debbie Gause lives across the street, and says, Lamar has been vacant for the last two school years.

But earlier this week, her neighbor saw a sign of activity there: a white SUV with a U.S. Customs emblem, parked outside.

Thursday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced Lamar was one of three facilities deemed the most viable options to house a wave of immigrant children headed to North Texas.

“As long as it’s just children, then I don’t have any issue with it at all,” said Gause.

More than 2,000 children from Central American countries who came into United States illegally and without parents, will wait in Dallas County before sitting in a court room and learning their future.

County politicians and community leaders began searching for a place to house the children. After looking at a dozen buildings, Lamar School in Grand Prairie, D.A. Hulcy Middle School in South Dallas, and an off-site facility belonging to Parkland Health & Hospital System were selected, though county officials are still looking for other options.

The federal government is expected to hire a contractor to manage the facilities for 120 days, with the possibility of extensions.

Some of the criteria included cafeteria space, gymnasiums space and security.

The children will only be allowed off campus for approved, supervised activity or medical reasons.

Carlos Machado lives across the street from Hulcy Middle School. DISD has not operated Hulcy as a school since 2012, though the building is maintained.

“The facility is a good one,” said Machado, whose son attended Hulcy before it closed.

He says the community is a good place – even temporarily- for the immigrants.

“It is a majority Latino community. We’re of Latino background and we’re just observing. We’re here to help,” Machado said.

While the federal government is expected to cover the costs, some Dallas County Conservatives, including members of the Garland Tea Party, say they would not be surprised to see protests.

Cathie Adams, with the Texas Eagle Forum, doesn’t believe the federal government can cover the entire bill.

“We’re talking about housing. We’re talking about education. We’re talking about food. We’re talking about medicating. This is a huge expense,” Adams said.

With her neighborhood soon to feel the effects of the border crisis, Gause is focusing on what she calls the humanity of the situation.

“I know there are lots of good intentioned people on both sides, and I understand both sides. But as far as having them in our neighborhood and having this as a refuge, I see no problem with that,” Gause said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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