A small community in southeast Mexico is not thrilled that hundreds of illegal immigrants are still being housed in a federal center usually reserved for training the Border Patrol.
In June, 700 women and children who entered the country illegally were sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, which has been used to train the Border Patrol and other federal agents for nearly 30 years, New Mexico Watchdog reports. (RELATED: White House On Border Crisis: It’s An Emerging Situation)
“I guess things are going as well as they could be,” Mayor Phil Burch told Watchdog in a phone call Thursday.
The illegal immigrants occupy 17 dormitories on the FLETC property, which are currently on a 21-day quarantine after a few cases of chicken pox were discovered. Since children housed on federal property must receive an education, Burch said instruction of the children will begin soon — possibly at a public school, but likely on the property.
“The stated purpose of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is to train law enforcement personnel,” Burch continued. “Anything other than that, in my mind, takes the focus off of what they’re there for. Personally, I was opposed to it … but I realize they’ve been fulfilling the mission they’ve been given.”
Burch also told Watchdog that 294 immigrants have been repatriated so far, and deportations are ongoing. But he expects the facility will remain open until the crisis at the border is resolved. “Until the flow of mothers and children is stopped, they’ll have to send them some place,” he told Watchdog. “My suspicion is that until the federal government does something to control the border, nothing is going to stem the flow.”
A town hall meeting is scheduled Thursday. Burch said the community is more comfortable than it was six weeks ago about security and medical issues and are “tolerating it pretty well,” but is “still on edge.”
Federal officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Watchdog.