LAWTON — Buses of children began arriving in the early morning hours Friday at Fort Sill as city officials and immigration advocates braced for the arrival of as many as 1,200 immigrant minors.
One bus arrived shortly before 8 a.m. The white passenger bus with “Coach USA” emblazoned on the side pulled through the fort’s entry gates. The bus then pulled up to a building that post officials had earlier identified as the area where incoming children would stay.
Many of the children on the bus appeared to be teenagers. They shielded their faces from the sun as they pulled into the front gates. One young male removed a pair of bright white headphones as he peered out a window towards the sprawling post.
A Fort Sill police officer said buses began arriving at the post around 3 a.m. Friday. Fort Sill is expected to house 600 to 1,200 immigrant minors as the children go through the various stages of the deportation process. The children were caught at the U.S. border while fleeing Central American countries, and workers will try to reunite the children with their families or find them a sponsor.
Douglas Stump, an Oklahoma City immigration attorney and president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said some of the children, particularly Mexican nationals, will likely be deported very soon, while others may be here weeks or months before deportation. Stump said some may stay in the U.S. and others can voluntarily deport.
“Fifteen percent don’t have families and need to be screened for asylum or relief,” Stump said. “Ultimately the majority of these kids will be deported.”
Some of the children may be able to find legal representation through organizations like Catholic Charities, said Richard Klinge, associate director of the organization’s Oklahoma City chapter.
“What we’re doing right now is just analyzing what role if any Catholic Charities is going to play or needs to play in this situation that involves these children,” Klinge said. “We just want to make sure these children are properly protected.”