WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Officials in Ellis County are ready for the first group of immigrant children to arrive in North Texas for a temporary stay. Those buses full of teens are being driven up from South Texas, and could start to reach the DFW area as early as Friday.
The children will be housed at campgrounds, first in Ellis County and then later in Rockwall County. Those facilities are not in session right now through the winter. But officials were not told about the arrivals until late Wednesday night, and had to rush on Thursday to prepare the grounds for the coming teens.
The Lakeview Camp and Conference Center of the Assemblies of God in Ellis County has space for around 1,000 people. Much of that space will be in use over the coming days to hold 500 undocumented children and 200 adults who will take care for the kids. The place was a flurry of activity on Thursday night, as those adults arrived and crews worked to prepare the grounds.
Once in the DFW area, the kids will not be free to roam the property. The adults, including first responders and educators, will be responsible for looking after the teens.
The undocumented children are originally from Central American countries like El Salvadaor, Honduras and Guatemala. They range in ages between 12 and 17, and have been separated from their families. The kids are expected to stay in North Texas for three weeks.
Sheriff Johnny Brown explained that he will be getting two phone call when the kids are on their way — one when the first bus leaves and another when it is about an hour away from town. Nobody has left South Texas yet.
Many people have expressed sympathy for the children, but others have been concerned about safety. Brown assured that law enforcement officials will be on hand when the teens arrive, and the kids will be under close supervision during their stay. “It will not be an eight-to-one ratio as we were told in the beginning. It will be closer to two-to-one,” he said. “I want to make sure the citizens of Ellis County know that this is under control.”
The federal government is paying for off-duty sheriff’s deputies to patrol the campgrounds around the clock. “I’m not going to tell you that we’re 100 percent sure that nobody gets out,” stated Lt. James Saulter from the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office. “We feel confident that nobody’s going to get out.”
Many people have been asking why the teenagers need to stay in North Texas. According to federal officials, facilities closer to the border, which normally house these children, are currently overcrowded. The kids need a place to stay until the courts can process their immigration status.
After their stay in North Texas, the children will either be returned to their home countries or placed with sponsors in the U.S. until their immigration cases can be heard.
Gov. Greg Abbott has been critical of weaknesses at the Texas border, which allows people like these children to illegally enter the country in the first place. “They need to know that I am working, every single day, to try to stop the number of people who are coming into the state illegally,” Abbott said.