Charity Groups Called Up to Help Immigrant Youth Housing Plan

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins will visit an immigrant youth detention camp in South Texas Wednesday for a personal look at the problem he has offered to help solve in North Texas.

Leaders of North Texas charity organizations met with Jenkins Tuesday to help develop a Dallas County immigrant youth housing plan.

Jenkins has agreed to accept around 2,000 of the young people who’ve flooded across the south Texas border from other countries since last fall.

“We have a humanitarian crisis,” Jenkins said. “We have the capability here in Dallas and Dallas County to do something. Not very many places do.”

Among the groups offering to help is Texas Baptist Men, which is already providing laundry and shower facilities at a Brownsville immigrant youth camp.

Texas Baptist Men Spokesman Terry Henderson has spent time at the Brownsville facility.

“I actually witnessed 2 and 3-year-olds that came across the border just with kids, kids in their teenage years, no adults,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the children told him they were told by their parents to go to the men in green uniforms when they crossed the border to find a bettter life.

Now, those Border Patrol officers who wear green are overwhelmed.

“Their concern is the safety of the children. Even though they’re there to catch the bad guys, they really don’t have time to do that. They’re having to make sure the kids are safe,” Henderson said.

Texas Baptist Men is one group in a coalition called Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).

VOAD Vice President Nikki Beneke said churches and other social organization have expressed interest in helping the immigrant children in Dallas County.

“And I think it’s an opportunity for our community to come together to assist these children to have a better life,” Beneke said.

But Dallas County leaders are also hearing from critics concerned about the cost and long-term impact of Jenkins' plan.

Resident Ken Harris spoke at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

“This migrant population will remain here permanently in the city for the duration of their young lives,” Harris said.

Jenkins said the Federal policy not to deport unescorted minors was established by an executive order of Former President George W. Bush in 2008.

He said that order set up the system being used now to turn the minors over to the care of U.S. Health and Human Services for possible placement with relatives in the U.S. or foster care.

Jenkins said the federal government will pay the entire cost of housing and caring for the young immigrants in Dallas County with a contract to arrange 'wrap services.'

“That means, similar to a state school, that all needs of the child will be cared for on the facility. The child will not be free to leave the facility and go into the neighborhood to go to school or go anywhere unaccompanied,” Jenkins said.

Three closed Dallas Independent School District campuses have been offered as possible locations, but Jenkins said more than a dozen locations in Dallas County are under review, two of them outside the city of Dallas.

“There will be a security presence there to keep the children on the location and keep others away from the location,” he said.

Jenkins has scheduled a press conference in McAllen after his south Texas detention facility visit.

Thursday, Jenkins plans another meeting with local leaders to finalize North Texas locations.

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