The fierce debate over migrant children spurs rival protests in a small Arizona town

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Carol Hills: Nearly every American it seems has strong views on our nation's latest immigration emergency, the wave of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America being detained at the US/Mexico border. Wherever these kids are taken, protesters are there, some welcoming the immigrant kids, some calling for their immediate deportation. Today, the focus is on Oracle, Arizona after news broke that one group of detained minors would be heading to a camp there. Reporter Jude Joffe-Block, of the public radio initiative Fronteras, was there and I spoke with her earlier. Jude Joffe-Block: There's actually two rallies here, two separate ones. One is folks who are concerned about the idea of migrant children being housed in a facility here in Oracle. They're rallying in one part of town on a road leading to that private academy where the children will ultimately be held. Then a couple miles down the road, more towards the center of town, there's a group of folks holding signs saying "Bienvenidos," "Hola," to welcome the children to send a different message. Back at the rally of folks who are opposed to the idea of migrants being housed in Oracle, I spoke to a couple. This is Bruce and Marla Bemis explaining why they don't want migrant children in their neighborhood. Bruce Bemis: Health and diseases, criminality; how old are these kids? We don't even know that. So yeah, we're concerned. Marla Bemis: The word "illegal," to begin with. It's a shame they're kids, if they're kids, but I guess their parents didn't care that much, to send them on that journey to here. Hills: Pretty harsh comments from that couple, though as you mentioned there are other people down the road there who are trying to welcome any immigrants who might show up. Is it clear why federal authorities have chosen Oracle? Do they just put out queries to different facilities or is there some sort of process? Joffe-Block: We don't know too much about it and that has actually been a complaint actually shared by both sides of the debate here, that they wish there was a little bit more transparency from the federal government about what's going on. They wish that the town had been consulted. Those who are supporting the children wanted to be consulted because they wanted to be able to help and those who are opposed wanted the chance to veto the idea. But what we do know is that on a national scale there aren't enough of these shelters from health and human services to house the more than 50,000 unaccompanied child minors who have recently come to the border, so there's a scramble all across the country to find appropriate facilities to house them in while they await their immigration court hearings. Hills: Besides the harsh comments we heard from that one couple who are against the migrants arriving, what are the other arguments protesters are putting forward besides xenophobic things like health and crime? Joffe-Block: There's also a sentiment - this is a very anti-Obama crowd who's rallying here, so I think that this is, for them, just another failing of the federal government. They don't like the idea of children coming, they aren't willing to see this as a refugee crisis. They think children should be returned as quickly as possible. There is that sentiment and so even the idea of children being held in shelters while they await their immigration court hearings is something they also disagree with. Hills: What's the demographic makeup of Oracle? It's a small town near Tucson, who lives there? Joffe-Block: It's really small, it's less than 4,000 people. I just looked up some Census data and there's about a 40% Latino population here but most of the demonstrators on the side that are protesting - it's an older white crowd who's here. Not everybody is from Oracle who's protesting today. Some folks have come from as far as Phoenix, some others from Tucson, though Oracle is well-represented. Hills: What about the welcoming committee crowd who are there to welcome any immigrants who come? Joffe-Block: That crowd is a little bit more diverse but probably also predominantly Anglo, though there are some Latinos on that side as well. Hills: Fronteras reporter Jude Joffe-Block talking to us from Oracle, Arizona. Thanks Jude. Joffe-Block: Thank you.