ROYAL, Ark. - The former Ouachita Job Corps Center could soon become a temporary shelter for young refugees.
According to an email we obtained involving representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and others, the facility in Royal could temporarily house unaccompanied children, which means they have no lawful immigration status and no parent or legal guardian in the U.S.
Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture representatives will visit the site Monday.
There's a little bit of animosity in the Garland County community.
"We need to take care of our own," said Tracy Fisher. "That's why I pay my taxes."
Fisher has lived down the road from the Job Corps center since 1995 and remembers it thriving.
"We give these kids these opportunities that I never got, which is great," he said.
But in the last few years, a U.S. Department of Labor report found the opposite. Low performance, population and graduation rates resulted in its closure this past summer.
"The gradual drop in students was a surprise to me," Fisher said.
Surprise or not, more than 50 employees and 85 students were out, leaving behind an opportunity for someone else to come in.
"I'm as giving as everyone else but I want my dollars to go to our children here first," said Fisher's sister, Zelda. "We're for helping all people, but I'd say we'd rather do it there than here."
A spokesperson said when these unaccompanied children are apprehended at U.S. borders, they are transferred to similar shelters within 72 hours. Children spend, on average, 35 days there under supervision at all times until they are released to an appropriate sponsor, who is typically a relative.
Their immigration case proceeds from there.
According to the spokesperson, these children do not attend school or integrate into the local community. He said the impact of these shelters on the local community is minimal.
According to the email we obtained, Health and Human Services representatives were considering a site in California but turned it down.