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Military Bases Prepare To House Migrant Families

Jun 29, 2018
Originally published on June 29, 2018 1:20 pm

NOEL KING, HOST:

A judge has ordered the federal government to reunite migrant families. But two Texas military bases are still getting ready for an influx of undocumented immigrants and children who have been separated from their parents. This process could drag out for months. And as Heather Claborn of member station KACU reports in San Angelo, Texas, the response there has been mixed.

HEATHER CLABORN, BYLINE: San Angelo is a bit of an oasis in an otherwise dry and dusty part of Texas. The city, built along the Concho River, has a population of over 100,000. It's surrounded by mesas, farmland battling drought, and short, scrubby trees. San Angelo's symphony is preparing for a pops concert on July 3. And on the outskirts of town, Goodfellow Air Force Base is preparing to house migrant children. In town, Ariel Reynolds (ph) spoke as she was leaving the city pool, where she and her family sought a break from yesterday's triple-digit heat. She says she's glad her community will have a chance to comfort the migrant children who've been separated from their parents.

ARIEL REYNOLDS: I thought it was great. I thought that I was kind of proud to be in a place that would do that.

CLABORN: San Angelo is in West Texas, but it's still more than five hours away from Tornillo, where a tent city housing unaccompanied minors has drawn protests, congressional visitors and lots of national attention. And that's something Eva Twomley (ph) doesn't want to see here.

EVA TWOMLEY: For one, I think the media is going to call it a jail because it will be in a fenced in area, a secured area. They'll be living in tents. All the negative things that you now hear about other places will now be brought and shamed on San Angelo, and I find that offensive.

CLABORN: But others see it as an opportunity. Local clergy and community organizers met yesterday at St. Paul Presbyterian Church to work on a response plan. Dr. Tim Davenport-Herbst, St. Paul's pastor, says the group brought bits and pieces of information it had gathered, but he says they need more details before they'll know how they can best help.

TIM DAVENPORT-HERBST: We may not have much contact with the children, but there are going to be a lot of people here that are working with the children, and that may become our primary focus, to provide pastoral care, community services, hospitality and fellowship for those folks.

CLABORN: San Angelo's Catholic Bishop Michael Sis attended the meeting and said the group is ready to step up in any way that's needed.

MICHEL SIS: What motivates us as Christian pastors in the situation like this is our desire to reach out and help people in need. Because our Christian faith informs us that when we help someone in need, we're helping Christ himself.

CLABORN: Construction of the temporary housing at Goodfellow Air Force Base is expected to start after the July Fourth holiday. It's unclear at this point how long San Angelo will host the children waiting to be reunited with their families.

For NPR News, I'm Heather Claborn in San Angelo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.