Littlefield officials, residents discuss housing illegal immigra - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Littlefield officials, residents discuss housing illegal immigrants

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LITTLEFIELD, TX (KCBD) - City officials and residents in Littlefield met for more than an hour on Tuesday night to discuss the city’s plan to use the Bill Clayton Detention Center to house illegal immigrants.

City Manager Mike Arismendez presented the plan to the audience before answering questions.

He said Littlefield has been in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials since March of 2012 with the hope of using the detention center to house illegal immigrants. Arismendez said that as recently as last week he was in contact with ICE but as of right now no contract has been signed. He said the city is hoping to have one done eventually.

Arismendez said, “Based on what we've seen there will be a positive economic impact. It's a $10-million a year contract for the city of Littlefield. Currently we pay $800,000 a year for that facility. That’s 13 percent of the budget. We have a prison and we have to do something with it. This could create between 60 to 80 jobs.”

Arismendez then answered questions from people in attendance. Their main concerns were safety, healthcare, schooling of the children and a possible increase in taxes.

“How will the city receive funding and will taxes go up?"

Arismendez answered, “Locally, no. Federal dollars will pay for the detention of illegal immigrants. A part of the rate that they give includes medical treatment. All medical will be taken care of inside the facility except for emergencies. ICE upon capture and detention does medical screening. If they have a disease they are quarantined until cleared and then released back into the general population.” 

“Will they be in the city roaming around?”

Arismendez said, “No. They will be detained in the compound and stay there until ICE determines their legal status. In the event that we do receive family units then we will look at Littlefield ISD systems to see if they will teach the children at the facility but they will not be released out into the community for any reason.”

People in attendance felt like they had their questions answered but were still concerned about the potential impact on Littlefield.

"My concern is security. I read in the paper where they were going to take the wires down if these people come and they've traveled and done all of this to get here. If we don't have the security they can walk over the fence," said Littlefield resident Pam Bownds.

"I was here when they built it and yes it did bring a lot of jobs for our city at the time but right now, I don't think this is the answer," said fellow Littlefield resident Cheryl Godwin.

Many people who got up to speak asked why the city can’t vote on the issue. Arismendez said it would have to be in November to comply with state law which wouldn't fit the time table for when ICE would want it open.

"I would like to see it but I don't know if the time frame will allow it. So we're supposed to be a democracy and if you had a vote on it, like it or not, that's the way it's going to be," said Littlefield resident Charles Heffington.

At one point a man got up and asked who in the room supported housing illegal immigrants and who opposed it. The room was split 50/50. A woman we spoke with as she was leaving said that this issue will be brewing for a long time and she hopes everyone can come to the best conclusion for Littlefield.

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