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Dallas County Will Not Shelter Thousands of Central American Kids After All

Local faith leaders stood by Jenkins as he announced that Dallas would not be sheltering unaccompanied kids.
Local faith leaders stood by Jenkins as he announced that Dallas would not be sheltering unaccompanied kids.
Emily Mathis

For the last month, Dallas has been buzzing with plans to temporarily shelter thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. Some 60,000 kids are expected to flow into the United States this year, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins' hotly debated plan would have provided temporary relief for stressed border resources, in the form of three federally funded shelters.

But because border crossings have dramatically decreased in the past month, the federal Department of Health and Human Services has elected not to create any temporary shelters for the kids, in Dallas or elsewhere, Jenkins announced today.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Jenkins addressed the change of plans. He acknowledged his disappointment that Dallas would not be sheltering the the kids. "There's a part of me that has a Marine mentality," he said. "When you say you're going to do something, you get fired up and do it."

The number of migrant children crossing the border has decreased in the last month, from over 300 per day in June to less 150 per day in July. Jenkins cited the hot summer months, but also recent federal initiatives including a public service campaign and partnerships with Central American and Mexican governments, for the decrease in numbers and increased shelter beds available. The numbers are expected to rise again in the fall, but not as dramatically as was originally expected.

Jenkins was surrounded by faith leaders, representing local churches and synagogues. "Our faith community responded with grace and led a strong majority bent on mercy because we see these scared and alone refugees for what they are: children -- just like your child and my child," said Jenkins. "Dallas County has become an unexpected outlier to those who don't know us. A place where compassion and love overcomes fear and anger."

Jenkins and faith leaders were careful to stress that help is still desperately needed for the kids. "Children without lawyers go back home to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras 90 percent of the time," said Jenkins. Rabbi Asher Knight, of Temple Emanu-El, cautioned about the need for continued community support. "Many of these children are going to need lawyers. They're going to need translators. They're going to need support going to the immigration court," he said. "It's an issue that speaks loudly to us, and to our sensibilities. And that is why you see the concern of so many faith organizations."


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