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CLINT, Texas A small West Texas town could become the site of the largest shelter in the country for unaccompanied children from Central America.

The plan to shelter 3,500 kids in Clint a quiet community just southeast of El Paso has many townspeople asking questions.

'I received a lot of calls on it,' said Clint Mayor Dale Reinhardt. 'A lot of people are concerned. As I tell them, we don't know all the particulars.'

A New York-based company has filed an application with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to open the Abraham Lincoln Transitional Lodge to provide 'residential services for migrant children.'

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing the company's application, and the federal government would have to approve and sign a contract for allow the kids to be cared for at the shelter.

Many in this small town are concerned about what 3,500 children would mean for the community with a population of 926.

'I hate to see them try to cram 3,500 kids in that area up there,' said feed store owner Larry Webb. 'Even if they have a nice facility, it could be a problem.'

As Webb hauled sacks of chicken 'scratch' feed nearby, two pens crowded with chicks chirped loudly.

Across town, the lunchtime crowd at Cotton Eyed Joe's had mixed feelings about the shelter.

'I would be for it,' said Vicki Black Walker, who ordered the taco plate.

Her husband, Joe Walker, also approved of the shelter, but worried about the cost. 'My only problem is how they are going to continue to fund it,' he said.

Some had mixed feelings.

'I know U.S. citizens don't like taking care of other countries' obligations,' said Santa Garcia, a Clint resident having lunch with three daughters and four grandchildren. 'I am a mother, and I do feel for those kids.'

Many in town seemed torn between welcoming the kids and feeling overwhelmed.

'For me, I would say open arms for them,' said Patricia Ruiz, who was chatting with her neighbor outside while a Chihuahua and several small dogs yapped.

Clint's mayor says nobody has contacted him about the proposed shelter.

'That's a lot of people in a little bitty small area,' he said. 'It just needs to be very, very closely studied. That's all I'm asking.'

E-mail: akocherga@wfaa.com

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