Dallas County

As Trump Ends Family Separation, Dallas County Still Prepared to Help

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks to the media about the humanitarian crisis caused by President Donald Trump's child separation policy.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks to the media about the humanitarian crisis caused by President Donald Trump's child separation policy. Stephen Young
President Donald Trump announced early Wednesday afternoon that he will end the policy of separating immigrant children from their families, initiated by the Department of Justice in April. An executive order, which the president said he would sign later in the day, will call for children and families detained trying to cross the border illegally to be held together until they are allowed into the United States or deported.

As Trump brought an end to the policy, which has been condemned across the political spectrum, Dallas County officials and local charities pledged to do all that they can to helped detained families and unaccompanied children who continue to come across the U.S.-Mexico border.

"If we're now going to keep children and their parents together, we should have a place for them," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. "I'll get on the phone today with the career professionals at [the Department of Homeland Security] and the career professionals at the [Department of Health and Human Services] and talk about these new developments. My feeling is that, with 10,000 of the 12,000 children being held being unaccompanied minors that weren't separated from their parents, that there is still help that we can give."

In the last week or so, Jenkins has partnered with Catholic Charities of Dallas and other local organizations in a site search for places to house kids — now families with kids — in Dallas County. Jenkins and company aren't interested in old big-box stores, like the abandoned Walmart in which kids are being detained in Brownsville. Instead, the judge said, Dallas County wants to put the immigrants up as comfortably as possible.

"If they're going to incarcerate or detain families, then I would like to see them in the least restrictive environment possible." — Clay Jenkins

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"Our shelters will hopefully be schools and campgrounds," Jenkins said. "If they're going to incarcerate or detain families, then I would like to see them in the least restrictive environment possible."

So far, the county has identified three sites at which immigrants could be sheltered. None of the sites are on federal property, Jenkins was careful to point out, so they'd be subject to state and county regulations. 

Catholic Charities of Dallas is also raising money to provide pro bono legal services to migrant children and their parents.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young