Undocumented children to have big economic impact

Published: Jun. 13, 2014 at 8:49 PM CDT
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FORT SILL, Okla._ The federal government says 135 undocumented children will arrive at Fort Sill sometime Saturday, one day later than originally planned.

It is still unclear how many more young illegal immigrants could be coming, if any, but the facility being used to house the immigrants has a capacity of 1,200. The building is surrounded by a tall chain-linked fence and is said to have only one main entry point.

Despite the local controversy of Ft. Sill taking on this mission, Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch believes this effort will end up benefiting the city in a big way.

"They're talking about $1.2 million impact for the Lawton-Fort Sill community within the first 30 days," says Fitch, who believes many businesses will soon be booming. "Several hotels I already talked to (say) they are booked solid through November."

It's all thanks to the news that hundreds, and possibly more than a thousand undocumented children will soon be coming to live at Ft. Sill.

"There's going to be a lot of food purchases, there's going to be gas purchases, the car rental companies, a lot of these people are coming in by air," says Fitch.

The youth immigrants will be staying in a 200,000 square foot building that was once used to house basic trainees.

Fitch says the controversy surrounding the decision to house the undocumented children is expected.

"There's a humanitarian feeling of responsibility, but then there's an anger feeling of why are we having to do this," says Fitch.

Strong opposition has come from many Republican lawmakers, including Governor Mary Fallin. Fitch, however, says he's supportive of the decision, adding he doesn't believe the children will pose a threat to the Lawton community.

"These people are going to stay within the confines of the post," says Fitch. "They will not be allowed out of this guarded area. They will not be allowed to go into town."

The kids, ages seven to 13, will be kept under 24-hour supervision. Fitch doesn't believe city residents will see many changes.

"I think you'll see an influx of revenue for businesses here and everything, but I don't think you're going to see any change that would have an adverse effect on this community or its people or anything of that nature."

The Department of Health and Human Services say this mission could last up to four months, but Fitch said Friday he expects the effort to go longer, simply because of the growing number of undocumented children coming into the United States. He says the city is prepared in the event that does happen.

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