Financial misinformation raising questions about “undocumented immigrant children”

Photo credit: Lakeview Camp and Retreat Center / Facebook

ELLIS COUNTY — Conflicting information released by Lakeview Camp and North Texas District of the Assemblies of God, who runs Lakeview Camp, has raised more questions than answers.

Background of the Story

With the massive influx of undocumented immigrant children pouring into the United States, the Federal Government has contracted with Baptist Children and Family Services (BCFS) to care for the immigrant children until they can be united with family members already in the U.S. or transferred to a more permanent facility to await an immigration hearing. Children placed with family members also await an immigration hearing.

Federal law, passed in 2008, prohibits the immediate deportation of unaccompanied immigrant children under 18 years of age from countries not bordering the U.S. without an immigration hearing. The children are temporarily housed, at the expense of the Federal Government utilizing taxpayer funds and some may be taken care of for a longer period of time if a family member cannot be found.

According to reports, the federal government has allocated $12.9 million for BCFS to handle up to 1,400 immigrant children for 21 days. This equals approximately $439 per child per day that BCFS may receive.

These amounts are slightly lower per child than what Ellis County Citizen reported on December 13 that the Federal Government paid for BCFS to house children at military bases in Oklahoma during 2014.

Originally, 500 immigrant children between the ages of 12 and 17 were anticipated to be housed at Lakeview Camp just outside of Waxahachie in Ellis County. Another 200 have since been added to the count. Approximately 300 additional immigrant children will be housed in Rockwall.

Congressman Joe Barton (R-Ennis), who opposes current immigration policies, had previously told members of the media that BCFS could receive about $500 per day, per child to care for the immigrant children. BCFS would in turn pay Lakeview Camp a portion for their services, which was not known at the time.

Financial Questions Arise for Lakeview Camp

In a December 10, 2015 press release, Jaroy Carpenter, executive director of Lakeview Camp, called the unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America "orphaned children." An "orphan" is defined as a child whose parents are both deceased or whose parents have abandoned them permanently. Although this may be true for some of these immigrants, it is not the case with all of them. Many of them had a parent whom sent the children on the journey to the U.S. alone and many also have one parent who already made the journey to the U.S. without their children. These are not defined as orphans.

Additionally, Carpenter referred to housing the children as a youth camp.

"We want to ease any concerns and clear up any misinformation you may have received. We are hosting a youth camp of orphaned children (ages 13-17) from South Central America for the next few weeks," Carpenter stated in the press release.

"While here, these students will experience recreation, education, church services, and other typical camp programming. It is an absolute privilege that we have the facility, infrastructure, and support to coordinate such an opportunity in service to displaced children."

Rick DuBose, superintendent of the North Texas District Council Assemblies of God, held a press conference later on December 10 and answered media questions.

One reporter asked DuBose, "Are you all paying for this or the Feds going to reimburse you all? How's that going to work?"

DuBose responded, "They do have a reimbursement process. They have agreed that we would not lose money in the thing and we're keeping good records. We'll see where we end up."

Lakeview Camp issued another press release on on December 13, which appears to have been removed from their website while press releases issued on December 10 and December 16 remain. The press release specifically stated that Lakeview Camp would be charging less than their normal daily per person rate at the camp and that the rate did not cover added expenses of some items.

"We know that rumors regarding money are abundant, and want to address that specifically. While it is true that BCFS has received a grant from the government to care for the unaccompanied minors, that amount is proportional to all costs involved for the entirety of their time under BCFS care," the release stated.

"Further, what Lakeview Camp is receiving from BCFS to house unaccompanied minors at the camp for 21 days is only a small fraction of that amount. Broken down, it is less than our normal daily per person rate, and not enough to cover the added expenses of additional bunk beds, staff, and security."

The press release also included a website address to provide monetary donations to Lakeview Camp.

However, BCFS is paying for security on the Lakeview Camp property and BCFS is reimbursing the Ellis County Sheriff's Office for the cost of off-duty deputies to provide security outside the perimeter of Lakeview Camp.

On Tuesday, December 15, DuBose told the media during a tour of Lakeview Camp, "We're being paid $60 per day, per kid." The Waxahachie Daily Light states this is the same rate Lakeview Camp charges churches.

Astrid Martinez with NBC DFW quoted DuBose saying, ""Our cost of operation to have somebody on the camp averages between $59 and $65, sometime as high as $70, depending on events they participate in."

"We cut a base rate for this to cover these kids at $60 a day per kid, which is cheaper than going to Motel 6, plus we give three meals and two snacks."

Carpenter issued another written statement on Wednesday, December 16 asking for donations from the public. Carpenter itemized specific items Lakeview Camp needed in donations in addition to providing information on how to make monetary contributions.

"Thank you for being patient with us as we assess our needs in aiding the Latin American youth," Carpenter stated.

"Donations to Lakeview Camp are also greatly appreciated at this time. The campground has incurred some additional expenses and any financial assistance would be a blessing moving forward."

Residents have been uneasy with the conflicting information.

"So far they have misled and contradicted themselves while keeping the community in the dark," Gayle Kinze wrote on the Ellis County Citizen Facebook page to accompany numerous other posts by unhappy residents.