Dallas Prepared to Welcome Legal Asylum Seekers at Respite Centers

The first bus of 55 legal asylum seekers from El Paso is expected to arrive in Dallas over the weekend.

A team called 'Dallas Responds' coordinated by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square is spearheading the effort to welcome the immigrants on the final leg of their long journeys to a new life.

"All we can do is the right thing," said the President and CEO of the Thanks-Giving Foundation, who said this is not a political issue, but a humanitarian one. "We're guided by this faith community that is, I think, a bit of a moral compass for us."

The Oak Lawn United Methodist Church is among the Dallas churches that is mobilizing to help.

"We are a church of open doors and we really mean it," said Pastor Rachel Baughman. "This is the right group of people to really team up and collaborate on trying to find a way to alleviate some of the pressure on some of our border cities."

Cities like El Paso are being stretched to its limits by the influx of immigrants.

Those coming to Dallas and other cities that are helping are mostly families from Central America who have been vetted by ICE, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. They have 72-hours from the time they leave the border to reach their sponsors in the U.S. Most will not stay in Dallas for more than 60 hours.

"We hope that they feel everyone who is here is looking out for their best interest," said Kathy Lee-Cornell, a volunteer who was sorting donated clothing in the basement of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church. The church was also setting up cots for weary travelers, though it will not act as an overnight shelter.

Coordinators said the asylum seekers' journeys are being paid for by donations, good will, and their sponsors, not public funds.

"This is not something to fear, but an opportunity instead to be a good neighbor and to be a welcoming presence for those who need it," said Baughman. "I would love for all of the people who come here to leave Dallas knowing that they found loving people here."

Dallas Responds has said it can take up to two buses per week for as long as there is a need.

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