Dallas County Plans to Shelter 2,000 Migrant Children

County leaders say federal government will pay

Dallas County leaders announced details of a plan Thursday to temporarily house about 2,000 children who crossed the border illegally without their parents.

On Wednesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and state Sen. Royce West traveled to McAllen for a first-hand view of the unfolding immigration crisis.

Some 52,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in the U.S. since October, and facilities are overwhelmed.

"This is an American problem, it's a Texas problem, and we have the capabilities to help them," Jenkins said. "And we are going to help."

Jenkins said the children would arrive in Dallas County by the end of the month, and plans about where they would go were being finalized and would be announced on Thursday.

He said the issue is about helping children in need – not immigration, and he added the federal government will pay the full cost.

"I'm not concerned about the people who are angry and upset," Jenkins said. "My focus is on these children."

Also on Thursday, Gov. Perry plans to testify before a congressional committee about the humanitarian and security crises, his office said.

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, the city has set up portable tents in the parking lot to help house the flood of immigrants.

"It's a crisis," said Ofelia de los Santos, a retired attorney who now volunteers for Catholic Charities. "It's an emergency. It is what it is and we need help."

She said the church has become a revolving door for immigrants arrested by the Border Patrol who have family members or others in the United States to sponsor them while deportation proceedings take place.

When they arrive, they receive clothes and supplies donated by the community.

"We gather all the volunteers together and we clap and we say, 'Bienvenidos, welcome, you're safe. We are going to give you food and a shower.' And they just break down crying," de los Santos said.

One of the woman taking shelter in the church said it took her 22 days to arrive from Honduras.

Angie, who didn't want her last name used, said in Spanish it was a difficult decision to come to the U.S., but that the situation in her home country is desperate.

"The crisis is really tremendous," she said, referring to the economic condition in Honduras.

She left her seven-year-old daughter and three-year-old son behind in Tegucigalpa, she said. She is now eight months pregnant.

"The stories the people are telling us, it'll break your heart," said de los Santos.

In California, efforts to find migrants temporary homes have met with controversy. Protesters have shouted at buses loaded with the immigrants.

But Jenkins dismissed the critics and said his aim is to help the children.

"Regardless of what you think about immigration, regardless of what you think about politics, these are children," he said. "And in Texas, we take care of children. And we have the capabilities in Dallas to take care of children. We're going to partner with the federal government and take care of them."

Senior pastor Frederick Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas offered to help.

Haynes, who traveled with the political leaders to McAllen, said his church was ready to offer sanctuary and volunteers.

"Whatever we can do, we want to do," he said.

Other plans being considered include housing the children in several unused school buildings.

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