WAXAHACHIE, Texas - Officials say it will be hard for residents to miss the hundreds of undocumented children coming into Ellis County, but there is no reason to fear.
Sheriff Johnny Brown said the estimated 700 children from Central America should begin arriving in stages after about 400 supervisors and counselors get to town.
All of the children will be minors under the age of 17. They will be housed at the Lakeview Camp, which is a Christian camp and conference center in Waxahachie.
North Texas District of Assemblies of God Superintendent Rick Dubose said winter is a slow season for the camp, which has about 1000 beds.
"We couldn't turn them away when we have beds,” he said.
DuBose said the children are coming from rough backgrounds. He hopes something about their experience in North Texas will help improve their lives.
The children will stay at the facility for about 21 days. After that some will be sent to live with relatives in the United States, but most will be returned to their country of origin.
Baptist Child and Family Services will handle the programming to keep them busy. The non-profit organization will also bring in interpreters.
Some people have questioned the decision to bring the children into the county.
“These are folks that have evidently crossed our border unlawfully. They’re in effect illegal immigrants. They’re young. We want to be compassionate, but at the same time we need to be a little bit concerned. These young people are coming from a failed social situation. So what habits have they learned? And who’s going to pick up the bill. And that’s a big concern because there needs to be some security involved. We have public safety issues involved,” said Paul Perry, an Ellis County commissioner.
But Sheriff Brown said his department will work with neighboring law enforcement agencies to maintain 24-hour security around the facility.
He said he wishes he would have gotten more notice from the federal government, but is confident his department can handle the task.
"It's the one percent you worry about. No matter what it is or where it is, it's the one percent you worry about. You can be in a restaurant with 99 people and one of them can be a bad guy. It's no different than out here," he said.
"It's created a bit of a firestorm of fear, but we do not believe there's any reason to fear," Dubose said.
The federal government will reimburse the camp and the county for the costs associated with feeding and caring for the children, as well as security.
Gov. Abbott weighed in Thursday on the plan to bring the illegal immigrants to North Texas.
“The Obama administration must fix the broken immigration system and must provide resources we need on the border so this doesn't happen in the first place,” he said.
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