Dallas County Judge in Talks to Accept Migrant Children

Dallas County is actively looking for sites to house migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the Texas border.

"What we need right now is a relief valve from the tent cities and the dark Walmart building," said Dallas County Commissioner's Court Judge Clay Jenkins Tuesday. "I bet you I can get a lot of people out there to make this a little less painful for the children."

Edison Middle School in West Dallas is among the places being considered for housing. On the Dallas County Commissioner's Court, there are differences in opinion.

"We are in the process. We are going to see if the federal government comes through," said Elba Garcia, who sits on the Commissioner's Court and supports Jenkins' efforts. "We'll move from there."

"I still say Dallas has the highest child poverty rate in the country," said John Wiley Price, who did not support bringing migrant children to Dallas. "And so I want to try to take care of these children first."

The effort follows a rally on Thursday night protesting the treatment of unaccompanied minors on the border, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is actively working to prepare Dallas for a possible influx of children.

Jenkins said he's willing - and hopes Dallas residents are willing - to open up local shelters, if needed. He said the first step though, is being asked for help by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

"Now that we have green light from @DHSgov @HHSGov, we need site choices," Jenkins tweeted Monday. "Camps, retreats, centers with dorms, dining halls and space to play are ideal."

"Locations will be leased by the feds at market rates," Jenkins added. "Private sector offers are encouraged. Let's come together and do for these children what we would want done for our children if the roles were reversed - until the kids are back in their parents loving embrace."

The judge himself cannot simply invite migrant children into the city.

Jenkins has been in touch with ORR and said, if asked for help, he would round up the organizations who offered help the last time there was a surplus of border children in 2014. Back then, Jenkins helped scout locations and worked with ORR to narrow down the search in case they were utilized. It turned out, they weren't needed. 

If ORR requests help, Jenkins would once again scout out about a dozen potential shelter locations, such as empty schools or government buildings.

ORR would then send a team out within 48 hours to narrow the sites down.

The number of migrant children and exactly when this could happen is still up in the air.

Dallas County could take in border children, if asked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Judge Clay Jenkins is on stand-by for that call.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins talks on NBC 5 First at 4 about how the county could take in border children, if asked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

NBC 5's Noelle Walker contributed to this report.

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