Amid a looming showdown between Congress and President Obama over what to do with illegal immigrants, an Arizona sheriff is warning residents of his community about increasing criminal activity at a shelter for Central American teenagers who entered the country illegally this summer.
Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona, released records this week showing an uptick in emergency 9-1-1 calls from the Sycamore Canyon Academy near the small town of Oracle. The group home has been providing free housing, food, medical care and education — compliments of the U.S. taxpayer — to about 40 Central American youths since late July when they came across the Southern border illegally.
The records show 13 calls between Aug. 1 and Oct. 10, up from eight calls in the same period the previous year. And the nature of the calls is trending toward more violence.
Eight of the 13 calls “were directly connected to acts of violence,” Babeu said, including five assaults on staff members and students. The sheriff’s records also show one report of a missing person and one incidence of marijuana possession at the facility since the young Central Americans showed up as wards of the federal government.
Nightwatchman clubbed with sack of soap
In one case, a 74-year-old nightwatchman at the facility was beaten on Oct. 8 by a 13-year-old boy from Colombia. The boy created a weapon by placing three bars of soap into a tube sock and then used it to strike the man in the back of the head.
Paramedics arrived and treated the elderly man for severe bruises. The boy, Cristian Dakin, was taken to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Oracle Substation for questioning. But Dakin, just 13, was savvy enough to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements without a lawyer present. He was charged with aggravated assault and transferred to a juvenile detention center.
The sheriff attributes the spike in 9-1-1 calls from Sycamore Canyon Academy to the arrival of unaccompanied alien children or UACs, who were dumped there by the federal government on July 30.
In another incident, a teacher at the facility had reportedly been attacked by three boys trying to steal her car keys. She has since quit her job at the academy, sources in the community tell WND.
Oracle was the scene of organized protests for and against the arrival of the Central Americans this summer. One group vowed to block any buses bringing in the illegals, taking their cue from protesters who successfully turned away busloads of illegals in Murrieta, California.
Illegals shipped in under cover of darkness
Oracle is a small town nestled in the mountains of southern Arizona. Its population is less than 3,900.
“Back when they were bringing the illegal Central Americans to Murrieta, we organized a protest just like they did and got 200 to 300 people to block the buses and they never showed up here,” said Ron Thompson, a retired law enforcement officer who helped organize the protest.
But the victory for the protesters was short lived. They found out later they had been snookered.
“The word we were hearing was they weren’t bringing the buses because they didn’t want a confrontation,” Thompson said. “That went on for about a week or so and we finally gave up (the protests) because we thought they gave up, but then they snuck them in about three weeks later in the dead of night when everybody had gone home and nobody was watching.”
Thompson said after the children were delivered to Oracle against the wishes of a large portion of the local residents, he decided to form a community watch group that would keep an eye on all activity at the remote facility where they are being housed. As a former cop, he was particularly worried about gang activity.
“It all started last summer when we were concerned about MS-13 types of kids coming in. I said, why not set up a neighborhood watch? And from there it just jumped out of the box. We had 18 to 19 people sign up, and it’s growing from there,” Thompson said.
Concerned about amnesty
Thompson, like many Americans, said he is concerned about President Obama’s promise to provide amnesty to approximately 4.5 million illegals without the approval of Congress.
“I feel like it’s an illegal act on behalf of the POTUS. All it’s going to do is cause more chaos and anarchy on our borders because, from what I’m hearing with parents and kids being automatically accepted, all that’s going to do is cause more of a rush on our borders,” said Thompson, a retired deputy sheriff and town marshal who now volunteers with Arizona Border Defenders, a group that monitors thousands of acres of rural border area for ranchers in Arizona. He said the group is made up primarily of retired veterans and law enforcement officers, and they set up cameras along the trails used by drug cartels to monitor the flow of drug runners and human traffickers.
“It’s been kind of quiet in the Tucson sector lately, but they’re going to start coming back on Arizona and New Mexico if he declares amnesty. All it’s going to do is create more problems, more havoc for the residents, if they continue coming through,” Thompson said. “It’s just not the way to handle this issue. Yes we do need reform, whatever, but we need to find a way to do that through legal channels.”
He said he was born and raised in southern Arizona and has seen the changes brought by illegal immigration.
“It’s turned into be a real two-headed monster,” Thompson said. “I’m familiar with all the border areas and all the problems they have, and they’re all unique.”
Thompson said the Pinal County sheriff has been “very cooperative” and responsive to residents’ desire to keep a close watch on the Sycamore Canyon Academy.
Sheriff denied information by feds
The sheriff said he tried to get information from the federal government on who was being transferred into his community and how many had criminal records or involvement in gangs. He was ignored.
“Common sense. Who are these kids? What countries are they from? Do they have a criminal history? As the top law enforcement official of this county, those are obvious questions I’m going to ask, and I got absolute silence,” Babeu told Fox 10 KSAZ-TV in Phoenix on Nov. 11. “I was refused this information, still to this day.”
Even the ages of the youths are not known, although most are believed to be between the ages of 13 and 17.
Fox 10 reported this week that the arrival of roughly 40 undocumented children has divided the Oracle community. Some have welcomed the kids. Others worry that the teenagers could escape and break into nearby homes in the rural area.
“Law enforcement was never provided with the profiles or criminal histories of the unaccompanied juveniles coming from Central America and being placed into our communities,” Babeu said in a news release issued Nov. 11. “Now, we are seeing an increase in violent crimes occurring at Sycamore Canyon Academy, where they were sent. Understandably, the residents of Oracle have been emailing and calling my office due to their concern of hearing of this increase in violence at the Academy, and they have every right to be upset. My office is acutely aware of the situation, and we will continue to work to ensure the safety of those in Oracle and the surrounding areas.”
Citizens group demands information
Thompson told WND his neighborhood watch group will stay engaged with the facility housing the teenagers and has requested a meeting with its overseers that would also be attended by the sheriff and local fire chief.
“We are sending a handwritten letter to the authorities where they have these kids demanding a sit-down with them, the purpose being that we want to find out what they are doing to prevent escape, prevent violence, etcetera,” he said. “And as long as they meet with us and give a satisfactory explanation of how they are going to handle these problems, then we’re fine.”
And if they don’t meet and give an explanation?
“If they don’t, we’re going to set up ‘Operation Silent Vigil’ with an observation point tower hovering over the school to keep a 24/7 eye on it,” Thompson said. “And they’re not going to like that very much, but there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. It’s our right, and if they refuse to work with us, the residents who are living in the area, then we are going to put them on notice that as a neighborhood watch group here, it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the residents.”
He said Oracle Neighborhood Watch has been in existence about three months and has combined resources with the We the People group and the Community Emergency Response Team, which has a couple of dozen people trained to assist first responders.
“Our concern as a community is that we have this type of violent youth up there in a school that has virtually zero security set up. It’s not built for a security situation, and I know because I worked almost 20 years with violent youth,” Thompson said. “It was a boys’ ranch originally back in the day, 20 or 30 years ago, and it’s been turned into a prison that’s got these Central American youths.”
Thompson said he’s been told by a worker at Sycamore Canyon Academy that two teenage members of the notorious gang, MS-13, were found to be living at the facility. WND was unable to confirm that report.
UPDATE: Legal status to be granted to unaccompanied alien children — Reports Friday said the U.S. government will launch a program in December to grant refugee status to some minors under the age of 21 who live in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and whose parents legally reside in the United States.
U.S. officials say parents can ask authorities free of charge for refugee status for their children in the Central American countries, which are plagued by poverty and vicious gang violence. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally, SFGATE reported.
Vice President Joe Biden is set to announce program later Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank, where the presidents of the three Central American countries will present a plan to stem child migration from their countries.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the program’s formal announcement, said children deemed refugees will be able to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S., opt for permanent residency the following year and for naturalization five years later. They did not say how long the process of receiving refugee status will take.