Questions for Clint

Blue skies over Clint, Texas.

It’s been reported that an immigration facility – some people are describing this as an “immigration warehouse” – that could house up to 3,500 illegal immigrant children is being planned for the town of Clint, Texas. And as a result, the controversial facility has town residents in an uproar.

Illegal immigration is nothing new along the US-Mexican border. Green and white Border Patrol trucks, jeeps and SUVs are a normal part of the traffic flow in El Paso County, where Clint is located. The tiny town is home to fewer than 1000 residents and is nestled between railroad tracks, cotton fields and plenty of blue sky. But the recent wave of unaccompanied immigrant children, mostly from Central America, has garnered the attention of Washington D.C. – and a New York company looking to build the proposed center, called the Abraham Lincoln Transitional Lodge.

Now a town is divided. A Facebook group called Clint Residents say, “Not in our town! do not want the project to see the light of day in Clint, as their name suggests. Other residents would be willing to welcome the children and the facility as long as there was strict oversight and planning involved.

“My only problem is how they are going to continue to fund it,” said Joe Walker to WFAA reporter Angela Kocherga.

Regardless of whether people are for or against the facility, a number of questions remain. Many want to know how this would impact local schools. Will the facility have its own school? Will neighboring school districts take in these children as they transition? More importantly, what does “transition” mean in this context? The word itself implies short-term. But what’s the long-term strategy? Will these children receive healthcare services, food, shelter and a one-way transitional ticket back to where they came from? Or will they transition into Residency status and ultimately citizenship? Because a facility like the Abraham Lincoln Transitional Lodge sounds pretty long-term.

Clint residents aren’t the only ones raising such questions. An August 1, 2014 story in the Times-Picayune (New Orleans) indicated that about 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the US-Mexico border and roughly 1,000 immigrant children were placed in Louisiana.

For the record, I didn’t ask to be added to the Not in our town! Facebook group. But I will forever have a special place in my heart for Clint, Texas, having spent the majority of my childhood attending school there until the age of 14.

The kids I hung out with are still as pure as the rich and fertile, crop yielding soil beneath your feet.

I’ll stay a part of the group, not because I am adamantly opposing Lincoln Lodge, but I want answers. And I want answers to not only the questions above, I am curious to see whether Clint residents are willing to ask internal questions as they move forward with this opposition.

Chiefly among them: If not Clint, where?

You see, it’s easy to start a social media campaign and ask for likes and shares but there’s a big time realization outside the digital realm: these kids are pawns in the game. They are the sad result of a failed system. They travel a long way, fueled by visions of opportunity and a better life as they seek the help of coyotes and drug cartels.

We, as law-abiding citizens (mostly) are also pawns in the game. Clint isn’t the first town to oppose facilities; we’ve seen large groups gather to stop busloads of immigrants only to be ridiculed by the Far Left and like-minded media outlets. Not in our town can be perceived negatively to such groups and in some cases, can even be perceived as racist.

I certainly do not want this perception of Clint, Texas because she and her residents do not deserve this. And they didn’t ask for this, yet, here they are, caught between a rock and hard place. Succeeding in stopping “Lincoln Lodge” might be good for Clint but it doesn’t help solve the larger issue. In fact, backers of the project need only to move the blueprint a mile in any direction of Clint and the issue remains.

Here’s a thought: What if a town like Clint, of all places, could actually work with local and federal officials and develop a comprehensive plan to become the model for immigration reform? We’re talking about millions of dollars coming to this town along with those kids, whether they stay for a minute or a lifetime. That’s money that can be spent on local, US-born children living in poverty or the kids that come and go with the season because their parents are migrant workers. Could a project like Lincoln Lodge bring additionally money and resources to help these children and their families, too?

In other words, is there a way for everyone to win? I think so. You might think I’m naïve or Pollyannic but it’s what I believe.

But in order for this to happen, there needs to be dialogue – and answers coming from those backing this project. All too often, money and politically driven agendas are pushed on people without any form of transparency. Clint residents deserve to hear those answers. They should be part of the solution not the mandate. But first thing’s first: Clint needs to want to be a part of the solution rather than pass the baton.

And those kids deserve more than the life they are living right now, as well. They might not be Americans but damn it, we are. Our country has provided over a billion dollars on a program to aid an Israeli air defense system while indirectly helping to fund the very group, Hamas, launching those rockets into Israel via “foreign aid.” Surely we can come together and solve a humanitarian issue right in our own backyard.

Winning in stopping Lincoln Lodge equates to losing for thousands of children. How about we start true dialogue and make this a win-win? Will it be difficult? Will there be challenges? Absolutely. It’s going to take guts, hard work, and dedicated people to make it a winner.

It’s only fitting – these are some of the very characteristics that make Clint, Texas so special.

Phillip D. Cortez is the author of several children’s books, including the forthcoming, Summer Son and Ava & The Monsters.


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