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Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 6:14pm

Federal Immigration Officials Raid Christian School In Southeast Georgia

Federal immigration officials confirm media reports of a raid at a Christian school in Long County, Ga., on Wednesday night.

Vincent Picard is a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

"ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agents executed a search warrant at Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, but due to the ongoing nature of the investigation I’m not really able to provide further details at this time," Picard tells GPB.

Picard says no arrests were made as of late afternoon Thursday. He says the agency is leading the investigation with assistance from local law enforcement, state officials, and the American Red Cross.

TV station WSAV reports that foreign students were living in the school gymnasium at Faith Baptist Christian Academy in apparently unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The station says the Georgia raid comes after an investigation into basketball recruiting violations involving foreign students at Lake Wales High School in Florida.

Susan Boatwright, communications director for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, says the agency has placed eight children younger than 18 in foster care and is working to find housing for more than 20 others. She says some may be young adults. Boatwright says many of the students do not speak English, and the agency is working with interpreters.

UPDATE: 8:45 p.m.
Reached by phone Thursday evening, Pastor Terry Sellars of Faith Baptist Church said the 30 boys and young men came to study at the church-run school from countries including Venezuela, Serbia, and the Dominican Republic. He said they were in the country on student visas and were living in a second-floor area above the gym.

Sellars said they were well cared-for, but acknowledged that the facility did not meet fire codes and other safety regulations.
“We were trying to reach these kids for Christ," he said. "And in the process they get a good education and the opportunity to play sports.”

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Gabrielle Ware