The temporary placement of hundreds of undocumented minors to an Ellis County camp is evoking fears as well as offers of help from area residents who have shared comments on the Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror Facebook pages.
Up to 500 undocumented minors from Central America will be housed near Maypearl at the Lakeview Camp and Retreat Center for up to 21 days while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services works though the process of holding immigration hearings for each minor seeking asylum in the U.S.
Doubt and insecurity created by the short notice and limited information county officials and the public were given became a reoccurring theme on social media posts. County officials were alerted to the situation beginning Tuesday after camp officials were asked if the HHS could use the facility.
“This leads me to lots of questions. The federal government has given Ellis County less than 24 hours notice that illegal immigrants from Guatemala are coming to Ellis County and being housed at a church camp. What happened to sending ‘illegals’ back across the border? They are illegal, why are we catering to’ them? Do they have vaccinations? Are they infected with any diseases that can be spread? What about the safety of ‘legal, tax-paying citizens?’ I just don’t understand why they are even in our country,” wrote Facebook user Helen Gillispie-Kennedy.
Rick DeBose, superintendent for the North Texas District of Assemblies of God which runs the camp, reassured the public in a press conference Thursday morning that the children will be immunized immediately and said the care and education for the children will be handled by the federal government and Baptist Child and Family Services at the camp.
Others posting on the Facebook sites wondered what would happen once the minors were at the camp.
“So they say they won’t be attending local schools – then what exactly will they be doing for the said 21 days?” asked Facebook user Lori Crisp Plaster.
Many users expressed a desire to help and showed sympathy for the difficult times the children may have been through before fleeing to the U.S.
“I’m glad that these children are getting a chance at a life, although they may face horrible accusations and be hated,” wrote Facebook user Katrina Machado. “There are many immigrants who put their blood and sweat into this economy. They don’t ask for loyalty or love. They just want to be viewed as a human being and not a problem.”
The minors, which county officials said might be traveling from Guatemala, struck a cord with Facebook users Monica Rodas, who said her mother immigrated illegally.
“It sucks that they’re being brought here, but they are just children and need help, which is why their parents send them over here, to lead a better life. My mom came here illegally as well and she is also from Guatemala. So I don’t care what y’all say, I’m glad she did. Because I know my life and my sibling’s life would not be as good as we have it here. We are grateful to be here, just as these children and their parents are most likely feeling now,” she said.
Facebook user David Fountain reminded others the government was sending the minors to Ellis County to give them enough time to accomplish the required steps for undocumented minors.
“These are children trying to escape the violence and poverty of their countries. Under our laws, minors from Central America cannot be deported immediately and must be given a court hearing before they are deported. While they are here, let’s do what we can to help them,” he posted.
Others wondered why the government was spending tax dollars on the refugees while many local families do without necessities.
“That is really great when we have homeless families and families that do not have enough food. I do not appreciate the money that I pay into taxes being used for refugees,” wrote Facebook user Loise Wood.
“Why don’t they take in homeless children of North Texas? Take care of our own first,” added Facebook user Jeremy Radabaugh.
Some posts reflected fear that the undocumented minors, which county officials said are mostly males ranging in age between 12 and 17 years, could pose a security risk.
“What guarantee do we have that dozens or even hundreds will not just leave the camp and come right into the nearest town? These are not babies, but teenagers and we all know how easy they are to raise. We have no idea whatsoever who or what they are about,” wrote Facebook user Linda Holger Farmer.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.