For a major bureaucratic initiative, County Judge Clay Jenkins' plan to house around 2,000 unaccompanied immigrant children in Dallas County is falling into place very quickly. Just this past Saturday, Jenkins announced at the Texas Democratic convention his plan to shelter these kids in Dallas by the end of the month. He wasn't kidding.
Already, Dallas ISD has said it intends to donate three now-empty schools to use as temporary homes for the kids -- Billy Earl Dade Middle School and Harllee Elementary School in south Dallas and Hulcy Middle School near Duncanville.
"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 Saturday. With three possible shelter sites selected, Jenkins will have to start organizing those town meetings sooner than he thought.
The move comes after the startling announcement by President Obama that he will soon take executive action, without Congress, toward immigration reform. Obama spoke on the heels of the two-year anniversary of Obama's deferred deportation executive order, otherwise known as DACA.
The past two years have witnessed the huge ripple effect from DACA in the lives of thousands of undocumented young adults. It seems more executive orders will be necessary to move forward with immigration reform: Among other things, Obama mentioned sending additional resources to the border, and toward care for the thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children pouring across the border.
So it comes as no surprise that Jenkins is reassuring Dallas taxpayers that they will not be funding the shelters. But some Dallasites are worrying that between funding a shelter, medical, social and legal services, any federal funding could potentially fall short in the actual cost of care.
Bill Holston, executive director of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, says that while he's thrilled Dallas is stepping up to the plate to take care of these kids, there's still too many questions about funding and facility services to celebrate just yet.
HRI currently provides around 50 child-clients with immigration legal services and would be hard-pressed to take on much more. "I'm happy our county and city are not in the category of municipalities that want to turn their back on the problem," he said.
"I think people in Dallas will rise to the occasion. We're getting contacted by people that want to volunteer, and all the faith groups are enthusiastic about helping these kids," he said. "But make no mistake about it, it'll be a demand on anyone seeking to be involved. It will stretch their resources, and these are resources that are already stretched."
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