Dallas County Plans to House Thousands of New Child Migrants from Central America

It's not a new problem, but it does appear to be a growing one, and it's definitely one politicians are talking more and more about in public settings. The flood of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States from Central America is expected to reach all-time highs this year, with as many as 60,000 kids crossing the border. It's a situation to which President Obama recently called national attention, but to the many lawyers and humanitarian workers across the country already working on behalf of these kids, it's hardly a surprising one.

And while border officials and humanitarian workers struggle to take care of these kids in south Texas facilities, those are little more than overcrowded prisons for children. According to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas could soon be doing its part to alleviate the stretched border resources for these children.

To kick off the Democratic state convention, Jenkins announced in a speech Saturday morning that Dallas County is currently working with federal officials to provide additional resources for the care of unaccompanied immigrant children. As part of this initiative, Dallas could soon take in as many as 2,000 of these children in soon-to-be-opened federally funded facilities. Jenkins claimed these facilities could even be opened by the end of July. Initial plans call for one to be located in Dallas, where Mayor Mike Rawlings has pledged support, and another city in the county.

The project would be a collaborative effort between the federal government and county humanitarian organizations. Jenkins said in his speech that the county is currently looking at vacated schools, hospitals and other empty buildings around the county to house as many as a thousand kids each.

Jenkins also emphasized transparency with the initiative, saying the local community will be kept closely informed of any neighborhood changes. "The initial contracts will be 120 day contracts. They could be extended, but before any site is chosen, we'll have community meetings, we'll discuss it with the community, we'll lay out to the community a town hall with exactly what will be happening there," Jenkins said.

The children will be moved from the temporary facility in McAllen to what Jenkins called "compassionate care" in Dallas. Catholic Charities of Fort Worth already houses around 30 kids at a time in a federally contracted shelter, but this newest effort would take some pressure off the overcrowded and underfunded south Texas facilities. Pending federal approval, Jenkins hopes Dallas County will soon be making a larger effort to help abate the surge of unaccompanied immigrant children.

"I believe that every child is precious, and that regardless of your stance on immigration or the causes for this human tragedy, we cannot turn our back on the children that are already here," said Jenkins in his speech. "We can't help all, but we can help some."

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Emily Mathis