Approximately 300 refugee children en route to Somervell County for 21-day stay

Travis M. Smith Managing Editor | @travis5mith tsmith@theglenrosereporter.com
Approximately 300 refugee children will pass through the front gates of Camp Arrowhead in Somervell County on Dec. 30 for a 21-day stay.

GLEN ROSE – A few hours prior to the burning of the fabled midnight oil, the United States Department of Health & Human Services informed Johnson County officials of the pending arrival of 300 immigrant children. Those children are expected to arrive to Camp Arrowhead on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Only one problem – the facility in which the children are to be housed is not actually located in Johnson County. 

While Camp Arrowhead’s physical address is 5236 N. FM 199, Cleburne, TX, the land on which the camp operates is inside the Somervell County line. The Johnson County address is what Somervell County Judge Danny L. Chambers thinks caused federal officials to contact Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon and Sherriff Bob Alford, and not Somervell County officials.

For proximities sake, the camp is 11.7 miles, or 3-hour and 52-minute walk, from Historic Downtown Glen Rose, according to Google Maps. 

While he has still yet to be contacted by an official other than those in Johnson County, Chambers said Harmon informed him that the number of incoming children was first reported to be 200 and was then upped to 300 around 10:30 p.m. on Friday.

Chambers also said that he is under the impression that the children – of which age range and nationality are unconfirmed – will be housed in the camp for 21 days and will be under 24-hour security.

“What I am being told right now is strictly unofficial, but I should have more on Monday,” Chambers said. “I am being told that the federal government is going to pay for 12 off duty police officers. Six will work a 12-hour shift and the other six will work the other 12-hour shift. The Feds will be billed for their services and they will also be responsible for reimbursing for the officers’ services. I am being told that no money will come out of the local budget.”

It is not the harboring of immigrant children that bothers Chambers, and even though the county should not be under any financial obligations, it is the way in which the U.S. government is conducting itself during the process that has him puzzled.

“This is not about helping children or individuals, because I do not have any problem with helping children or individuals,” Chambers explained. “The Federal Government spending millions and millions of dollars that they don’t have on programs that they can’t afford is what I have an issue with. They impose their will on local governments, and I don’t like that either.”

“People always want to read and take things the wrong way, but it is not the people who they are helping that I have a problem with, it is the way they are doing it.”

Details were still scarce as of Saturday afternoon and Somervell County officials had yet to be directly contacted by any federal official. In fact, Chambers and Somervell County Chief Deputy Brian Peterson may still be sitting in the dark if Johnson County officials had not reached out or if neither had seen an earlier report in the Burleson Star.

“I am a little familiar with the same type situation that happened in Ellis County,” said Peterson after he stated he first learned of the situation in a newspaper article. “I think those children are 10-15 years old, and as far as I know, [Ellis County law enforcement] has not had any problems over there. A few people I know over there said the situation is actually a little sad. I do know that it is a three-week stint that they will be here.” 

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams and his office were also on the short list of those who were notified late Friday evening of the incoming “unaccompanied alien children.” One-day prior, Williams’ office reported the Congressman requested HSS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to not house refugee children at Fort Hood in Killeen. 

The Congressman also penned a letter to President of the United States Barack Obama in which he urged the administration, “Not to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied alien children at any U.S. military installation.”

“Your administration should commit to securing the border and focus your efforts on reuniting these children with their families in their native countries,” a portion of the letter read.

Williams’ office also released a statement following Friday’s announcement that read, “Rather than discouraging illegal border crossings, the Obama Administration is yet again feeding into the belief that if you are an illegal alien, you will be allowed to remain in the United States if you make it here.”

There are currently an approximate 900-undocumented Central American children being housed in camps in Maypearl and Royse City, according to multiple reports, and there has yet to be an incident reported. Of the 900 children being housed, approximately two-thirds are reported to be male and hail from countries such as El Savador, Guatemala and Hondrus.

According to Samira Page, a former refugee who now heads Gateway of Grace, more than 70,000 refugees arrived in Texas in 2014 – 11 percent more than any other state.

Gateway of Grace is one of “North Texas’ largest refugee outreach” organizations and hosted some-200 refugees for a Christmas party on Saturday afternoon in Dallas.

“Negative headlines these days cause refugees to feel unwanted, to feel shame, insecurity, anxiety and fear,” Page said. “This year more than ever, the Christmas message shines dignity and worth on all refugees.”

A call was placed to Camp Arrowhead, but was not immediately returned. More information will be provided on yourglenrosetx.com as it becomes available.