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Housing Undocumented Children Draws Support, Protest In Arizona Town

PHOTO: The thought of housing undocumented children brought people, both supporters and opponents, to the streets of Oracle, Arizona this week. Photo courtesy of Frank Pierson.
PHOTO: The thought of housing undocumented children brought people, both supporters and opponents, to the streets of Oracle, Arizona this week. Photo courtesy of Frank Pierson.
July 17, 2014

ORACLE, Ariz. - Housing undocumented children is causing public displays of both protest and support in communities in the Southwest, including Oracle, Arizona, located about 100 miles north of the border of the U.S. and Mexico.

Frank Pierson lives in Oracle and is the president of the St. Helen Catholic Church parish council. He supports the care and treatment of undocumented children who may be temporarily housed in his town, but acknowledges those opposed to helping the kids until their immigration status is determined are angry.

"Having seen the level of ugly vitriol provoked by the possibility that 40 children would arrive on a bus was awful," says Pierson. "It really, frankly, horrified me to see that embodied."

Earlier this week, Pierson says at least 200 people gathered in the center of Oracle to welcome a bus carrying undocumented children. The bus did not show up as planned, but Pierson says opponents were armed, behaved like a militia, and planned to block the bus from entering town.

Pierson says he believes the children entering the U.S. should be considered refugees because of dangerous conditions in their home countries in Central America.

"They're leaving nation-states where the conditions are full of violence and other social disorder," says Pierson. "The default position needs to be to treat these children as refugees."

According to the Department of Homeland Security, refugee status or asylum may be granted to people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they face serious harm.

President Obama has called the influx of tens of thousands of undocumented children into the U.S. a humanitarian crisis. Republicans say the president's immigration policies are largely responsible for attracting more undocumented immigrants.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ