A day after meeting with President Barak Obama and Governor Rick Perry, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says progress was made on the plan to bring 2,000 undocumented children from the Texas-Mexico border to North Texas.
“As far as the piece of what we’re doing here in Dallas County, I think there was a lot accomplished,” said Jenkins.
However, Jenkins couldn’t produce a written plan and instead pointed to the federal government.
“As far as the contracts, no, that’s is not in writing yet. That would not come from my office. That would come from the federal government,” Jenkins said.
“It’s a fluid situation, but our goal is to get children here by the end of July,” Jenkins said, “As we get children here, we’re not talking about 2,000 in a mass migration.”
Jenkins went on to say the three facilities will be filled over time. He expects children to be housed for 21 to 35 days before they’re processed through the system.
During Wednesday’s meeting with the president, Jenkins says issues like immunization, quarantine and safety were hammered out.
But, as far as the potential impact on the education system Jenkins had the following to say.
“With 7 million people in the metroplex, some of these children will go to family members or foster care here in the metroplex. And just as is the case every year at every large school district, we’ll have children that are here under refugee status pending immigration decisions,” he said.
Jenkins says he still hopes to have the children in Dallas County this month.
“I realistically think I’m going to keep chewing on people to get them to do everything in their power to get children here by the end of July,” Jenkins said.
Questions are beginning to emerge surrounding how volunteers can help. Terry Henderson, with Texas Baptist Men, says there may be a chance volunteers will not be allowed inside federal shelter facilities in North Texas.
“Homeland security yesterday told us that going into a facility is probably not going to happen for NGOs because there is a law not allowing NGOs, volunteer agencies, churches to go into the federal detention centers and the federal shelters where they have federal contractors because of the liability issues on them being liable for us,” Henderson said.
NBC5 reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment, but did not receive a response.
Faith-based groups like the Texas Baptist Convention say being inside the facilities is important.
“What they are going to need is socialization resources – all their free time, they are going to eat and sleep and then you have all that other time,” said Chris Liebrum, director of disaster recovery for the Texas Baptist Convention.
Jenkins admits there are some issues that need to be worked out in regards to volunteer organizations, but recognizes the need for volunteers to work directly with the children.
“They also need love,” Jenkins said, “I don’t think a child feels love in a holding cell with armed guards around them, and I want, when we bring them here, I want them to know they are not just wards of the state for a few days but this community values them as people.”
“People want to give and that’s their natural instinct, but at this point it would be a problem because of storage. And we don’t really know what they want,” Liebrum said.
While they aren’t collecting supplies, they are taking donations to help mobilize immediately when they are needed. Texas Baptist Convention has set up the For the Children fund. You can make a monetary donation or give the organization your information and they will contact you when they need help.
“We’re not really into the politics of this all. We’re really here for the children, which is why we named our fund For the Children,” said David Hardage, Executive Director of Texas Baptist Convention.
But as of now, the hands of volunteer organizations are tied until a full plan is place and they the get the green light to work inside federal facilities in Dallas County.
If you would like to help right now, the best way is to contact Catholic Charities of Fort Worth or Texas Baptist Convention. Judge Jenkins also suggests those looking to volunteer time or make donations should contact his office for further instructions.