The controversy surrounding where to place tens of thousands of children crossing the U.S. border, mostly in Texas, continued in Oracle last week as organized protests were held to protest and support up to 50 children being placed at a boys’ school.
In a July 14 release, Carl Shipman of the Sycamore Canyon Academy boys school, said they were not taking sides in the controversial issue, but only providing temporary shelter for the immigrant children.
With reports that the children could be bussed to the school on July 15, residents assembled along Oracle Road last week. Many protested the
children being placed in local facilities, while others held signs in support of the children.
“Sycamore Canyon Academy is not taking a position on the immigration debate in any way,” said Shipman. “We believe it is for others to decide. Our mission is to improve the lives of youth, and we will continue to fulfill our mission by focusing on our work with children.”
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.”
While the children were never bussed to the facility, the debate continued throughout the week.
As concerns for public health continued after nearly 300 children were placed at a facility on Oracle and Drachman roads, Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Pima County director of health, reported to the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
“I continue to believe that the unaccompanied minor children transiting through Pima County and the approximately 273 residing within the Tucson shelter facility present a very low-risk threat to the health of the public in this jurisdiction,” Garcia said. “This conclusion is based on my best understanding of the current processing and medical system that is in place to serve these children, the minimal interaction between the children and the public, the contracted obligations of the current sheltering facility, as well reassurances from our federal partners.”
Garcia said while the health and well-being of Pima County residents is his sole priority, it is his opinion that the risk is more with the immigrant children crossing the border and not with area residents.
It is estimated that nearly 60,000 children have crossed the U.S. border so far this year. This compares to a total of 25,000 children crossing all of last year.
Many of the children are coming from crime-ridden areas in Central American, which includes Honduras and Guatemala.
Congress has yet to take a vote on President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the issue, which the president is calling a humanitarian crisis.
If Congress is going to officially act on the president’s request, they only have about two weeks before the recess.
Rep. Ann Kirkptrack, D-Ariz. CD1, said she supports the president’s request because it would create more funding for judges who can process the children’s cases faster.
(Editor’s Note: Chris Flora contributed to this story.)