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WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of undocumented teens are headed to North Texas this week, brought in by federal officials. But the move is raising security concerns among law enforcement agencies in both Ellis County and Rockwall County, where the teens will be arriving.
The immigrants are coming from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. They are all between the ages of 12 and 18. Approximately two-thirds of them are boys.
Officials in North Texas were not told about the arrivals until late Wednesday night. “We didn’t solicit this. We didn’t agree to it,” said Precinct 3 Comissioner Paul D. Perry. “We were given very little foreknowledge that this would happen. I think this is another example of a failed immigration and border enforcement policy, coming down and affecting local government and the citizens of this county, potentially.”
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services have noted an increase in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally — especially families with children.
The Lakeview Camp and Conference Center of the Assemblies of God is one of two North Texas campgrounds where the teens will be temporarily housed. Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown expects 500 minors to be placed there. They were originally set to arrive on Thursday, but officials will now instead spend the day preparing for their impending arrival later this week.
The facility’s camp programs are not currently in session through the winter.
“I was upset about not being informed,” Brown said. “We can handle anything if we have the time and the equipment to get it done.”
An additional 200 teens are expected to arrive next week, along with 200 more children who will be sheltered at Sabine Creek Ranch, just outside of Royse City in Rockwall County. Still more teens will be arriving at a site in California.
After posting a statement about the arrivals on its website, Sabine Creek Ranch said that many community members reached out with offers to volunteer or donate. However, that is not necessary at this time, because many of these teenagers have been in government care for some time.
The federal government insists that these are just temporary homes. Ellis County Judge Carol Bush stated that the youngsters could be there for 21 days before they are placed with sponsor families. She continued to say that they will be self-contained at the facilities, and will not require county services or be placed in public schools. The federal government will be administering health screenings for the children.
While the Ellis County site — located near Waxahachie — is extensive, the sheriff believes that it is not secure, and is notifying authorities about the arrivals. Brown suspects that some of the older teens might try to run away now that they are so far from the border.
Rockwall County Judge David Sweet said that he is sensitive to the hardships and needs of these unaccompanied children, but the safety and security of citizens is the first priority.
“Certainly we have security concerns,” Perry added, “and I think every citizen in this county has a right to be concerned at the same time.”