By John Hernandez
San Manuel Miner
The Sycamore Canyon Academy located next to the Peppersauce Canyon campgrounds may be housing unaccompanied alien children for the Federal Government. The academy is part of Rite of Passage, a national provider of programs and opportunities for troubled and at risk youth from social services, welfare agencies and juvenile courts.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department has received information that 40 to 50 unaccompanied alien children are to be sent to the facility. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu shared the information with the public at a political rally which included some members from the town of Oracle. The Sheriff has said that he has major concerns from a public safety standpoint about the facilities capacity to handle the incoming migrants.
Mr. Lopez from the Sycamore Canyon Academy was contacted Friday July 11. He said that he could neither confirm nor deny that 40 unaccompanied youth were being shipped to the facility. Attempts were made to contact Ike Shipman, Program Director at Sycamore Canyon Academy over the weekend. A statement from Shipman is expected.
Kenneth Wolf, Deputy Director of Public Affairs Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was contacted regarding the rumors about Sycamore Canyon Academy. He stated via email, “We do not identify regular/permanent shelters in the Unaccompanied Alien Children program for the safety and security of minors and staff at the shelters.”
Oracle and Tri-Community residents have had split reactions to the news.
On Sunday morning information was received that a notice had been posted on the post office bulletin board in Oracle. It read:
“On Tuesday July 15, 2014, the Federal Government plans to locate (40) illegal young people into the community of Oracle. The plan which has been kept very secret is to house these people at the established Boy’s Ranch in Peppersauce Canyon. Inasmuch as the present facility at the Boy’s Ranch is not adequate to handle this new load of people. This facility is currently undergoing modifications to accommodate this new group.
“We the People of Oracle, are presently considering our options regarding this matter.
“We have contacted many of our elected county, state, and federal officials, along with Jan Brewer, our Governor, to put a stop to the import of these illegals to the Oracle area.
“We may take no action at all, on the other hand, we may do whatever is necessary to prevent these illegals from entering our community.
“Tuesday July 15, should be very interesting for all concerned.”
The Miner has confirmed that the notice was written and posted by Robert Skiba, a resident of Oracle and a member of the We the People political activist group.
Skiba said that a protest has been organized and that many politicians may be coming as well as national news agencies. It will be stationed at the junction of Webb Rd. and Mt. Lemmon Hwy.
“It is going to be huge,” Skiba said. “We are going to let everybody know about Oracle, Arizona.”
A counter protest or at least a group of people showing support for the unaccompanied migrant children is also planned for tomorrow July 15. They will be forming at the triangle area between the Oracle post office and Mt. Lemmon Road.
On Monday afternoon, a statement was made by Carl Shipman, Program Director at Sycamore Canyon Academy.
“Sycamore Canyon Academy, at the urgent request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Settlement (ORR), will provide safe and temporary care to a small number of unaccompanied youth from Central and South America. These children will be temporarily placed at the campus by the ORR until they can be properly placed with an appropriate sponsor or repatriated to their home country. Sycamore Canyon Academy is working closely with the federal refugee program and appreciates the support we have received for this humanitarian effort.
“Sycamore Canyon Academy is not taking a position on the immigration debate in any way. We believe it is for others to decide. Our mission is to improve the lives of youth, and we will continue to fulfill our mission by focusing on our work with children.
“Individuals who wish to contribute to this effort can contact the State Department Refugee Processing Center website at www.wrapnet.org or the HSS Office of Refugee Resettlement website at www.act.hss.gov.”