The Town of Oracle was in a stark divide today over the arrival of a busload of children from Central America – about 40-60 in number – who are to be housed at the town’s Sycamore Canyon Academy, which currently serves the area’s troubled youth.
From the first sign of daylight, protesters were on-scene hoisting signs reading, “Return to Sender,” while others welcomed the immigrants with signs of “Bienvenidos.”
Considering what a hot-button issue illegal immigration has become of late at the national level, and arguably even more so in states like Arizona and Texas, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu reminded both parties to remain lawful or face consequences.
“My job here is to ensure the law is kept,” he said before a crowd. “People have the peaceable right to assemble on both sides. If people don’t comply with lawful orders, they will be arrested.”
Some supporters of the incoming immigrants accused Babeu, whose stance against illegal immigration is no secret, of helping organize and gather protestors.
Babeu denied the claim saying his involvement at the rally, other than law enforcement, was to relay information to both parties since the federal government has not done its job communicating immigration issues.
“The federal government assured there would be federal cooperation with local authorities,” Babeu said. “Nobody talked to us at the sheriff’s department. We’ve asked questions and haven’t gotten one answer. If you’re going to send unaccompanied juveniles to another jurisdiction in another state, there are legitimate concerns that other members of this community have about public safety and health.”
While the rally for the most part stayed civil, there were assertive individuals on both sides of the aisle, some going so far as to park their vehicles in the road to serve as a roadblock for the bus. Babeu asked the vehicle owners to move them, to which they complied.
About 50 people made up each of the parties, which were separated by a short distance. Politically, they were much further apart.
“I’m here because somebody needs to stand up to what’s going on,” said Tucson resident Mercy Hess. “This is just wrong. It’s wrong to use these kids like the powers that be used these kids to push the issue of amnesty and open borders. We’re not here because we hate children, we’re not here because we are inhumane. We believe in the rule of law. There is a process. Legal immigrants are welcome, and we take in more of them than any other country. The world is full of people who are scared or hungry. We can’t take them all in.”
Others said America has a duty to take into consideration the human rights of immigrants.
“I’m here to say these refugee children are welcome to America,” said supporter John Fife. “We believe the statue of liberty is an appropriate symbol of this nation, and we are here to say the U.S. has laws that conform to human rights standards, and that we are part of that community that is the whole tradition of the U.S.”
The bus did not show up as scheduled.