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Bryan Army Reserve building among many being eyed as possible refuge for immigrant children

Bryan Army Reserve building among many being eyed as possible refuge for immigrant children

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U.S. Health and Human Services officials said on Tuesday the old Bryan Army Reserve building is still being considered as a possible housing facility for unaccompanied immigrant children who've been caught crossing the border.

Last week, city of Bryan officials said they were informed HHS representatives were considering the building near Carson Street and Bomber Drive as a temporary shelter.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the HHS Administration of Children and Families, said the facility is one of many being considered nationwide, and "only a few facilities will ultimately be selected."

He didn't provide a timeline on when federal leaders would be announcing the facilities to be used or address how many children would be housed in the Bryan building.

"In order to enhance the capability to transition unaccompanied children from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, facilities are being identified by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. General Services Administration as potential locations to increase the medical care and temporary sheltering capacity of HHS," Wolfe said.

He added that several communities and states have offered assistance in the "humanitarian response," but didn't say if Bryan was one of those places.

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores said, from his conversations with Bryan leaders, he's found local residents would rather the city not be a temporary refuge for the immigrant children.

While he believes Americans should provide temporary shelter and protection for the children, he doesn't think communities should be forced to take them in if they don't want to.

One of the things Flores said Bryan officials have brought up is the possibility of having to deal with an influx of bilingual students in schools if the local location is chosen.

However, according to information on the Administration of Children and Families website, the immigrant children will not be enrolled in local schools.

According to the website, temporary shelters are authorized by HHS to stay open for up to 120 days, and the average stay is 35 days.

Since he spoke with an Eagle reporter last week, Flores said, he's received information about why more than 52,000 children have been caught on the border without parents since October, most of them from either El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala.

Flores said criminals in Central America have devised a scheme to scam parents by promising to safely deliver their children to the U.S. border in exchange for thousands of dollars.

He said he thinks the U.S. should care for the children for as long as it takes to reunite them with their families, a task he acknowledged will take time and effort.

"I think we ought to keep these children safe, fed and taken care of, but get them back and reunited as soon as we can," he said.

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