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Plans to house some of the children at an empty office complex in Baltimore were scrapped after the city’s Democratic mayor and Maryland’s two Democratic senators objected as soon as the details were announced.

Ms. Workie insisted that the administration would not move forward with plans for St. Paul's College unless it has community support.

But preparations for the campus continued throughout the day Thursday.

HHS officials have told residents that the campus would house about 500 children, about 75 percent of them males between the ages of 15 and 17.

The administration estimated that a steady stream of children would be on the campus, under armed guards from the Homeland Security Department, with each child staying about 30 days until being reunited with a parent or family member.

“No way do I want to be living anywhere with armed guards and a security fence,” said Donna Lewis, who said she moved with her grandchildren from Washington, D.C., to Lawrenceville seeking a quiet life.

Along the street by the campus, a series of signs delivered a simple message: “No.”

Before the meeting, Emory Samford, who owns a funeral home next door to the campus and put up the “No” signs, said nearly every resident on the street opposes bringing the children to their town.

“The federal government tells us these kids aren’t violent and that there’s nothing wrong with them. But they’re putting up armed guards right in the middle of this community,” said Mr. Samford, who also lives in a house on the street.

At least 90,000 children — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — will be caught this year trying to cross the border unaccompanied by one or both parents, and more than 140,000 will be apprehended in 2015, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo.

Until recently, just about 8,000 unaccompanied children per year attempted to cross the border.

The Obama administration has called the wave of children a “humanitarian crisis” driven by children flee to the U.S. to escape rampant gang violence in Central American countries.

Critics, however, contend that President Obama laid out a welcome mat for illegal immigrants, especially minors, by discouraging deportations. Government interviews with the young border crossers confirm that many believe that once they arrive in the U.S., they’ll be allowed to stay.