Texas rejects plan to use shuttered boarding school as immigration detention center

A state board has rejected a plan to use a shuttered Texas boarding school in Corsicana as a federal immigration center for unaccompanied Central American children who entered the U.S. illegally.

The mayor of Corsicana, about 55 miles south of Dallas, was in favor of the plan, but Gov. Greg Abbott and several state lawmakers were opposed to a project that could be seen as supporting federal immigration policies.

The governing board of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department voted 8-1 Friday against the idea of housing some 800 youths at a time in the school.

Corsicana Mayor Chuck McClanahan promoted the project as a job-creator, and said the unaccompanied children need some place to stay briefly until their relatives take them. He praised the board for hearing him out, but said he's disappointed "for the residents of Navarro County and Corsicana who need better jobs with benefits," according to the Corsicana Daily Sun (http://bit.ly/2aCR6rO ).

According to the Texas State Historical Association, the school was established in 1887 and opened two years later as the State Orphans' Home. The Corsicana State School closed in 2013 as the juvenile justice system downsized.

"This facility has been in Corsicana for more than 100 years ... as a place to help children," McClanahan told the Houston Chronicle last week. "The only difference is that these are foreign children."

Corsicana officials had signed a tentative deal with a New York firm, Cayuga Home for Children, to operate it as a transitional housing center. If the board had approved, the city would have received title to the center for free, then leased it for $3,000 a month.

But Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury, wrote the mayor last month saying he doesn't support "a taxpayer-funded property being used as a revolving-door facility for illegal immigrants."

"Regardless of how attractive the limited, short-term benefit such use of the TJJD property the federal government alleges will be provided to the city and/or county, I will not validate the mass influx of immigrants into a county I represent," Birdwell wrote. "I will not be complicit in assisting the federal government in its willful malfeasance of the enforcement of immigration law."

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