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Immigrant detention plan stirs uproar
SoVaNow.com / June 18, 2014An Obama administration plan to turn St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville into an East Coast detention center for 500 undocumented juvenile immigrants has caused an uproar in Brunswick County among public officials who claim to have been blindsided by the move.
After U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Congressman Robert Hurt stepped in, officials with Health and Human Services, on Monday, agreed to a temporary halt to the program. Instead, there will be a public hearing at Brunswick High School on Thursday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend the hearing and ask questions of the federal officials from FEMA, HHS and Homeland Security who are overseeing the relocation program
At least one official called the move to install the juveniles on the shuttered campus, “a train wreck.”
Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville is a 183-acre campus that, until it closed in June 2013, was one of 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. Without a buyer or another source of income the campus will shut down completely as of November.
According to St. Paul’s President Millard “Pete” Stith, in early May he was contacted by an “unnamed” state official telling him that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was looking for a campus to house undocumented juveniles, which they call “unaccompanied children,” on a temporary basis. Before contacting HHS, Stith said he called Lawrenceville Town Manager CJ Dean to find out if the college’s zoning would allow the campus to be used to house these unaccompanied children.
Assured that the zoning was in place, Stith said he then shared his plans with County Administrator Charlotte Woolridge, but admits that he never thought about holding a town meeting to discuss the matter with the local citizens before contacting HHS officials.
Stith also met with the local police and fire departments. The only comment from either official, according to Stith, came from the fire chief who said the dorms had a few safety hazards that needed correcting before the minors could be housed there.
The federal government would lease 15 dormitories for a minimum of 6 months to house up to 500 unaccompanied children. The federal government, through FEMA, HHS and Homeland Security would supply and pay for everything needed to house the children, including security.
They would not be allowed off campus, and even while on campus, the children would have an escort.
The monies St. Paul’s would receive from this program would not only cover the expenses of the program, but could possibly be used to reduce the substantial debt that the college has labored under and which forced its closure last year.
It was also suggested by one official, who asked not to be named, that this program would be an economic boon to Brunswick County providing jobs – including construction work to repair and maintain the buildings groundskeepers to maintain the landscape, and security guards. But others say those jobs, if they exist will most likely go to federal workers, not local residents.
When asked if this program would interfere with current plans for Motley’s Auction & Realty to sell the campus, Stith said it would not. The bid opening is scheduled to move forward at the end of the month.
Stith did not comment on Dr. Umar Johnson’s recently announced plan to purchase the campus for $5 million and covert it into a residential boarding school for African-American boys, named the Frederick Douglass Marcus Garvey Academy.
In a June 5 article published in Diverse, the controversial Johnson said, “If I don’t get the property, it will likely be sold to white folks and turned into a private gated community.”
Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts, who was one of the officials that asked to delay the start of the relocation program, said the first he knew that HHS would be housing juveniles at the Lawrenceville campus was late last week. The official confirmation was a 6:58 p.m. e-mail sent out on Friday, June 13 notifying him that as of Thursday, June 18, HHS would begin sending these unaccompanied children to St. Paul’s.
Roberts said he is not opposed to the plan, but asked for it to be put on hold until after the public has had a chance to ask questions of the appropriate officials and be reassured that the program is safe.
Without more information, he said he is skeptical about HHS’ claim that the children have undergone a thorough background and health screening, especially if they’ve been in the country for a week or less. He also wants more information about the steps Homeland Security will be taking to insure the health and safety not only of the children but the residents of Lawrenceville.
Federal officials admitted on Monday that many of the juveniles were physically or mental abused either at home or during their trek to the United States.
Most of the children who will be placed at St. Paul’s are boys between the ages of 13 and 15 who were apprehended by immigration officials while crossing the border. Between 85 percent and 95 percent of them are placed with a family member who is already in this country, either legally or illegally. The others are returned to their country of origin.
It is expected that they will remain in Lawrenceville for 30 days or less, on average.
Outgoing Mayor Doug Pond wondered why, if these children are already housed in appropriate facilities in California, Texas and Arizona, why they can’t stay there. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, during Monday’s press briefing, answered the question claiming that current detention facilities are not safe or adequate for the children.
In the past year nearly 25,000 unaccompanied children have tried to illegally cross into the United States along its southwestern border. HHS says 37% of them are from Guatemala, 30 percent come from Honduras, 26 percent from El Salvador, three percent from Mexico, two percentfrom Ecuador and two percent from other Central American countries.
The four main reasons most of them claim for coming to America are to escape violence, abuse or persecution in their home countries, to find family members already residing in the United States, to seek work to support themselves, their family, or their own children, or because they were brought here by human trafficking rings.
Once they become charges of HHS, the office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for providing care to children, consistent with federal law, and they are placed in the “least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child, taking into account potential flight risk and danger to self and others,” according to HHS’s official fact sheet. While they are under HHS care, officials claim the children receive classroom education, mental and medical health services, case management, socialization and recreation.
CommentsThis is all a load of horseshite. Here is some of what the criminals we call political leaders are really up to.
- By Liars on 06 / 18 / 14
CommentsFools. Why don't we all just place MS-13 welcome signs out on our front lawns. If you want give temporary housing, give them a temporary train ride back across the border. And you've got to love this part "The federal government, through FEMA, HHS and Homeland Security would supply and pay for everything needed to house the children, including security." Which means we the taxpayers get to pay for this crap.
- By Obummer sucks on 06 / 18 / 14
CommentsDoes anyone really believe this will be only "temporary housing"? Good thing the Brunswick correctional facility is just down the road... Undocumented teenagers= future gang members.
I'd rather see Johnson's plan come to fruition. Even as a middle-aged white Southerner who came of age in the Civil Rights Era, I think it would be borderline criminal for St. Paul's to lose what little of its HBC dignity it has left. I really hated to see the school close though I understand why it had to.
- By powerhouse on 06 / 18 / 14
CommentsHow about this one "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, during Monday’s press briefing, answered the question claiming that current detention facilities are not safe or adequate for the children." Which is an admission of sorts that the feds cannot adequately manage the facilities currently under their control. So hey, why don't we let them open another is Southside Virginia.
- By Pitch some tents on the White House lawn on 06 / 18 / 14
CommentsWhat is Cloward-Piven theory?
- By We're in jeopardy on 06 / 18 / 14
- By Imagine that on 06 / 18 / 14
CommentsRIght nut bible thumping America shows their true colors as they chastise helping kids, scared young children whom they act as if murderers are being housed at the college. Pathetic, the hypocrisy of Christian right America is sickening
- By rick on 06 / 27 / 14
CommentsWhy don't you call HHS and take in as many as you want Rick. Immigration laws and standards and a nation having borders doesn't have a damn thing to do with religion. If you want to help poor kids in foreign countries join one of those Christian Churches you apparently loathe and become a missionary you hypocrite.
- By Forced charity is not charity on 06 / 30 / 14
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