Advocates say some of the immigrant families caught crossing the border together illegally will be coming to North Texas and housed by the Catholic Church.
NBC 5 learned Thursday that nearly three dozen unaccompanied children will be bused from Brownsville to Fort Worth where Catholic Charities plans to house and care for them.
Officials said rooms and offices in the building will be converted into bedrooms for the 32 children. Caseworkers will also work to determine whether any of the children have family in Texas that would qualify them for legal status.
Catholic Charities Dallas said that at this time they do not have any plans to bus children to their facility because they do not have any shelters or a plan in place to house them, though officials said that may change.
“Often the life-threatening journey north is a more appealing option to these children or viewed by their families as the last remaining option to secure their safety,” said Heather Reynolds, CEO Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.
Catholic Charities Dallas is also training local lawyers to be legal advocates for the children and to work with immigration officials.
The children will also meet with caseworkers who will help determine if they can get legal status in the United States. But, Catholic Charities can’t do it alone. They’re asking for foster families to volunteer to help.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced on Friday that he is headed to the border Monday to evaluate the humanitarian crisis that has forced thousands of refugees into the shelters.
Unattended Children Also Headed to New Mexico
Thomas Baca, executive director of Catholic Charities in Las Cruces, told The Associated Press on Friday that close to 300 people will be housed at a parish in Anthony after being released from federal immigration authorities.
He said the Diocese of Las Cruces is working on raising funds to house the immigrants and racing to get the facility ready. Baca said the Diocese of El Paso is housing around 300 immigrants.
U.S. to Open Immigrant Family Detention Centers
The Obama administration said Friday it will open new detention facilities to house immigrant families caught crossing the border illegally, amid a surge from Central America.
The administration did not immediately say how many people the new family detention centers will house or where they will be located. The government currently operates only one such facility, in York County, Pennsylvania, with space for fewer than 100 people.
Tens of thousands of families, mostly mothers traveling with young children, have been apprehended at the border since the start of the budget year in October. The administration has released an unspecified number of them into the U.S. in recent months with instructions to report later to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices, but it won't say how many have been released or subsequently appeared as ordered.
Immigrants crossing the border illegally have overwhelmed U.S. immigration agencies. More than 174,000 people, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been arrested in Texas' Rio Grande Valley this year.
The spike in border crossers — southern Texas is now the busiest border crossing in the country — prompted the Homeland Security Department earlier this year to start sending families to other parts of Texas and Arizona for processing before releasing them at local bus stops.
Family detention has long been a contentious issue for Homeland Security. In 2009 the department was forced to shutter a large family detention center in Texas after legal challenges about the conditions of the facility. And in 2012, ICE abandoned plans to accept bids for a new family detention center in Texas amid complaints from advocates about the possibility of housing immigrant families in jails.
Also Friday, House Speaker John Boehner urged President Barack Obama to send National Guard troops to the southern border to help deal with the surge of children and other immigrants.
Former President George W. Bush deployed thousands of troops to the border during his second term to augment the Border Patrol as it bolstered its ranks. Since then, the agency has nearly doubled to more than 20,000 agents and the number of immigrants caught crossing the border illegally has declined overall.
NBC 5's Jeff Smith, Jocelyn Lockwood and The Associated Press' Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.