Arizona town tries to protest away immigrant kids

Anti-Immigration activist Kim Bailey (C) talks to immigrant rights protesters along Mt. Lemmon Road in anticipation of buses carrying illegal immigrants on Jully 15, 2014 in Oracle, Arizona. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

ORACLE, Ariz. - Protesters have begun gathering in a small town near Tucson after an Arizona sheriff said that the federal government plans to transport about 40 immigrant children to an academy for troubled youths.

Protesters on both sides of the debate showed up in Oracle. Anti-immigrant groups hoped to block the buses if they come, while pro-immigration advocates showed up to remind the migrants that they are welcome in the country.

The protest group has already been asked to move their vehicles from blocking the road, according to officials with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, who are on hand to provide security for the busload of children. PCSO is also saying the academy has increased their staff by 30 people to help with the children, reports CBS affiliate KOLD in Tucson.

Anger has been spreading in the town of Oracle since Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu warned residents last week that immigrant children from Central America caught crossing the border illegally would be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Academy in Oracle.

The academy houses troubled youth, many of whom have been through the criminal justice system.

Calls to the academy were not returned. A spokesman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services said the agency would not identify the locations of shelters for migrants to protect their identities and security.

"We don't know who they are. We don't know their health conditions. We don't know a doggone thing because the federal government isn't telling us anything," protest organizer Robert Skiba said.

Anger has been spreading since a massive surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago. Though largely considered a humanitarian crisis, the influx of immigrants has also become political fodder.

In a state known for its strict immigration laws, including SB1070, which many call the "show me your papers" law, attitudes are just as contentious.

The fallout began in late May when reports surfaced that immigration officials were dropping off hundreds of women and children at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound bus stations after they had been caught crossing the border illegally.

Within a week, immigration authorities were flying hundreds of children who had crossed the border into Texas alone to the Border Patrol facility in Nogales. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer sharply criticized the move and demanded it stop. Republican candidates for governor have also chimed in. Some are expected to attend the rally on Tuesday.

But the children, if they arrive as expected, will not only be met by angry faces. Immigrant-rights groups are also planning to attend and counter-protest.

"They are using fear and hatred in hopes of generating demonstrations similar to recent events in Murrieta, California," said the Latino civil rights group Somos America. The group added that it "condemns those actions and seeks to provide a peaceful alternative to the fear-based panic which is being caused by the recklessness of tea party agitators and Sheriff Paul Babeu."

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