CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - A Houston County official has confirmed the federal government is in talks with the company which bought the former state school about using the facility to house illegal immigrants.The Cornerstone Program based out of Colorado took over the Davy Crockett Regional Juvenile Center (formerly Crockett State School) earlier this year. Since then Houston County Judge Erin Ford said the organization has faced challenges trying to get juveniles into their facility, but the occupancy could soon rise.
Houston County Economic Development Director Thom Lambert confirmed that the federal government has been discussing the possibility of using it as a holding facility for the droves of illegal immigrants that are inundating our nation's borders.
Ford says nothing is set in stone.
"I don't know of any direct contact on the use of that school for anything other than the adjudicated juveniles," said Ford.
The East Texas News talked with Cornerstone President Joseph Newman who confirmed that a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representative did tour the facility on June 30 to determine if the facility would be suitable. Newman said there have been a few calls back and fourth but nothing concrete has been determined. He went on to say that housing illegal immigrants would not be his first choice for the Crockett facility but as Americans, we have to care for the ones that have already crossed.
"We're Americans," said Ford. "We're the most compassionate people in the world. It's one of the things that makes us such a great country. So when a child comes across the border unaccompanied, compassionately, I want to make sure they're taken care of until they're reunited with the family across the border. So yes, I think that we've got to do something. We can't put them in tents. We can't leave them outside. We've got to feed, clothe, house, and care for the children, but having said that, we've got to stop those children before they get into the country."
Lambert said if the idea to house illegal immigrants happens, it will be good for the county because it will create jobs. He said the immigrants will be detained within the facility and not intermingled with other youth there.
Newman said there are nine juveniles that are currently at the facility.
The City of Crockett and Houston County began a partnership with Cornerstone Programs to transform the old Crockett State School to a new juvenile treatment facility in January.
Residents in Crockett did not seem to like the idea of having the facility take in immigrants.
"I believe it is the lack of the president doing what he wants to do,” Wesley Holmes said. “He said he had a phone and a pen, and he did what he wanted to do. That's part of the reason we are in this mess."
“Instead of bringing them deeper into the US, they should take them back home where they should be with their parents, because they don't need to be here,” Jesse Taylor said. “They are in a foreign country. They have no income. They have no language. They are just like a fish out of water."
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office said they do not believe they have the infrastructure to handle the group if they are brought here.
“There is a better way and better solution to this, but bringing them to Crockett, Texas is not the better way,” said Chief Deputy G.P. Shearer.