About 800 unaccompanied Central American children will be relocated to Ellis and Rockwall counties Friday to relieve a surge of children being housed along the border, officials said late Wednesday.
Nearly 500 of the children will be housed at an Assembly of God church camp between Waxahachie and Maypearl, said Ellis County Commissioner Paul Perry.
Another 300 will be housed at a church camp at Sabine Creek Ranch, said Rockwall County Judge David Sweet.
The children, between the ages of 12 and 18, will arrive “in the near future,” Sweet wrote in a news release posted on the county’s website.
“Rockwall County is sensitive to the hardships and needs of these unaccompanied children,” Sweet said. “Rockwall County’s first priority is to the safety and security of the citizens of Rockwall County.”
In Ellis County, Perry said the federal government notified the county earlier in the day that the children would arrive soon.
He also raised security concerns.
“The word I've received is a large proportion are male and that can be a whole different set of problems,” Perry said. “You're not dealing with young kids. We're not getting mothers and their young children. We're getting children who may have been running in the streets.”
Late Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the children will start arriving in North Texas on Friday.
She said they would be gone by the end of the month – turned over to family members already in the United States, sent back to their home countries or moved to housing facilities on military bases.
The first buses carrying adult volunteers began to arrive Thursday afternoon in Ellis County.
During another surge of children crossing the border last year, Dallas County Commissioner Clay Jenkins offered to shelter 2,000 migrants. But in the end, nobody came.
In this case, Perry said the counties are getting no choice.
"We did not solicit this," he said. "This is being imposed upon us with very little notice."
A spokesperson for U.S. Rep Joe Barton (R-Texas) released the following statement Wednesday evening:
"Congressman Barton has serious concerns with the unaccompanied minors being relocated to Texas. He has been in touch with (HHS) Secretary (Sylvia Mathews) Burwell and other local leaders to make sure the relocation presents no complications to Texans."