Houston Co. considers turning state school into immigration facility

Lonnie Hunt is the Houston County judge.
Lonnie Hunt is the Houston County judge.

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Jeff Higginbotham is one of the last men standing at the Crockett State School after the state shut down the facility in July.

He's seen nearly 280 people lose their jobs on the campus.

Now he's keeping the facility appealing for potential buyers.

County Judge Lonnie Hunt is hoping a move by the county will get Higginbotham, and his crew of one, co-workers in the near future.

"You know when the state school closed, we didn't really know what could be done with that property," Hunt said. "The one thing we knew is that the state of Texas had no use for it and when you take the state of Texas out of the picture, that takes a lot of your options off the table."

Now they're hoping to get a contract with the federal government to partner with a non-profit to operate an immigration and customs enforcement facility out of the complex.

"It's a program specifically for families with children who are being detained for questions about their immigration status," Hunt said. "The particular facility we're proposing to bring here would not house anyone who has been accused of committing any other crime."

Hunt says the property would be ideal to house the ICE program because it's not only security, but the layout is more residential.

The county is expecting the federal government to put out a request for proposals so they can apply for the ICE family residential program.

The program may not be able to replace all the jobs lost. Hunt is hoping for 150 jobs, mostly local hires.

The maintenance crew of two hopes to be part of those hires.

"We both own our places here and I'm tired of moving," JJ Rightmire said.

If everything works out, the school-aged children held in the facility would have to either be integrated into the school or the district could provide a teacher to teach there.

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