LEAGUE CITY — The question of where to house the children crossing the border into the U.S. is being debated across the country, and at least one county committeeman in Idaho is looking to League City as an example.
The city council in League City recently approved a resolution that prohibits city departments from cooperating with federal directives or requests to process or house undocumented immigrants.
Rick Winkel, a precinct committeeman for Clearwater County, Idaho, said League City’s resolution is exactly what he hopes his county — and the cities in it — will approve.
More than 57,000 children have entered the country since October, according to reports from The Associated Press. The federal government is attempting to give the children a better place to live than a federal detention center until they are united with relatives or sponsors in this country or returned to their country of origin.
The majority of the children are attempting to escape violent conditions in Central American countries. While undocumented immigrants from neighboring Mexico can quickly be sent back to their home country when caught, a 2008 law is making deporting the Central American children more difficult.
The law, called the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act, is meant to combat sex trafficking, and it requires that children get an immigration hearing. But backlogs in courts means that process can take years. In the meantime, the children stay in the United States.
Winkel said the federal government is not sending undocumented immigrants to Clearwater County, but he said he wants to be pre-emptive.
“If we’re silent, then we are also complicit with saying that it is OK,” he said.
Winkel is not alone in opposing the housing of the undocumented immigrants.
While some communities have stepped forward offering to house children — Dallas County is moving forward with a plan to house 2,000 immigrants and a school in Houston is also being considered — others have been less welcoming.
Protesters, some with rifles and handguns, opposed the use of a shelter in Vassar, Mich., according to a report from The New York Times, and protests have sprung up in cities across the country.
Winkel, 58, said he is not against caring for children, but he said he is worried about the safety of his community. Some of the undocumented immigrants are older and could have gang ties and have been raised in areas with high levels of violence, he said.
Winkel said he worried violence is a “documented way of life” for some of the immigrants.
“We would like to eliminate that here in our county,” he said. “We have enough drug problems, although it is down, and violence problems here all on our own. We don’t need outside ones brought it.”
Winkel said it would make sense to “take care of our own first.”
He said he would share League City’s resolution with city and county officials and hoped to have a town-hall meeting on the subject next week.
League City Councilwoman Heidi Thiess spearheaded the passage of the city’s resolution.
Thiess did not respond to a phone call or email requesting comment. But Thiess has said in the past that her support of the resolution was in part to give encouragement to other municipalities to follow League City’s lead and stand up to federal authorities.