WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Thousands of unaccompanied children have been crossing into the United States at our southern border and there have been rumors in our area saying some could be relocated to the vacant Virginia Intermont campus.
The rumor has caught the attention Washington County Virginia's Board of Supervisors.
We were at their meeting Tuesday night as Board of Supervisor's member Bill Gibson brought up the issue. He acknowledged it's anyone's guess right now whether or not the children will come but he asked his fellow board members to act to keep the children out of our area. The board appeared to be in support of Gibson's idea.
"[It's] not going to be only Texas, Arizona or California," said Odell Owens, a member of the Board of Supervisors . "They're going to spread them out around the country, there's no doubt about that."
Owens said immigrant children coming here is inevitable and that had board members expressing concern
"These people come from third world countries," said Gibson. "They don't do vaccinations over there. There's going to be an influx in disease in this country, chicken pox, small pox."
The board is now asking the county administrator Jason Betty to draft a resolution to prevent that from happening.
It would tell the federal government the county is not interested in being considered a location for housing these children.
Berry told us he's already started looking at the effect the relocation would have on county social service agencies.
"I think the reality is that if it's in Bristol, it's going to impact Washington County indirectly but it could be directly," said Berry.
Social service agencies in both Washington County and Bristol, Va. told us the federal government has not notified them of any relocation plans.
We also talked to Virginia Intermont, who said they have not been contacted by the federal government either.
We dug deeper and called the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HHS replied with a statement that read, in part, "a wide range of facilities are being identified and evaluated to determine if they may feasibly provide temporary shelter space for children." You can read their full response below.
We asked whether Virginia Intermont is one of those locations and were told that the list of those sites being considered is not available for the public.
We also talked to the City of Bristol, Virginia who said they have not been notified about relocating the immigrants here. They said, "the public will be informed should contact concerning this matter arise. Any new use of the Virginia Intermont College facility will impact our local community and should be positive for our citizens and local businesses."
Here is the complete statement from Jennifer Molley Wilson, with the City of Bristol, Virginia:
"No member of City Council or City staff has received information from Virginia Intermont College concerning housing immigrant minors. Congressman Morgan Griffith, Senator Bill Carrico, Delegate Israel O'Quinn, and Senator Mark Warner publicly expressed they oppose this process, which was attempted at the former Saint Paul's College in Southside Virginia.
"The City of Bristol, Virginia, along with state and federal elected officials, will monitor this issue and the public will be informed should contact concerning this matter arise. Any new use of the Virginia Intermont College facility will impact our local community, and should be positive for our citizens and local businesses."
Here is the complete statement from Kenneth Wolfe, with the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
"In order to enhance the capability to transition unaccompanied children from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, facilities are being identified by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. General Services Administration as potential locations to increase the medical care and temporary sheltering capacity of HHS.
"Organizations, communities and states have offered to help with this humanitarian response and the Unified Coordination Group is also evaluating facilities proposed by state and local partners. While only a few facilities will ultimately be selected, a wide range of facilities are being identified and evaluated to determine if they may feasibly provide temporary shelter space for children. Facilities will be announced when they are identified as viable options."
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