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Jefferson County leaders sound off on providing housing for undocumented children
JEFFERSON COUNTY-By Jennifer Gordy
The County Judge tonight, for the first time, is making it clear he is strongly against housing children pouring across the border. We've reported often on the flood of young boys and girls coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America. What you have not heard until now is why there are strong sentiments among several county leaders against the plan under review by FEMA. The government has not made a formal request to house undocumented children in Jefferson County. However, County Judge Jeff Branick has already made up his mind.
Branick says, There's no agreement between Congress and the White House on when these individuals would be repatriated to their countries. So, in the absence of that, making it available would be almost tantamount to being a co-conspirator in breaking the laws, the immigration laws of the United States."
Several weeks ago, FEMA, through Catholic Charities approached the county. The possible plan: To use the closed Al Price state school to house some of the immigrant children. Since then, people with opinions have indundated the county with phone calls and emails. Precinct Three Commissioner Michael Sinegal says, "I guess out of the hundred phone calls and emails I have received, about 80 percent has been in favor, but there is that 20 percent that is pretty vocal against." Precinct Two Commissioner Brent Weaver says, "I understand the humanitarian part of it, but public safety and public health override that." Branick says, "There are numerous concerns. I have received several phone calls from physicians who are concerned about the reoccurrance of tuberculosis, scabies, other things that are currently undercontrol in the United States and concerned about them becoming out of control and becoming epidemic."
Commissioners are waiting to see what proposal, if any, the federal government will make to use the facility. Precinct Four Commissioner Bo Alfred says, "If it does come, then this court will look at everything to make prudent decisions for taxpayers in this county." A decision Branick says in his mind is difficult, but clear, "On the one hand I have compassion for individuals in need, but while you and I slept last night somewhere between 40 and 60 thousand people in this world died of starvation."
Carol Fernandez of Catholic Charities says the response to the non-profit from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.
Branick has not yet been contacted by FEMA.