Over the past few months, the border patrol in South Texas has been overwhelmed by a surge of unaccompanied children from Central America. Many are fleeing violence and/or attempting to rejoin other family members already in the U.S. Government officials are estimating that as many as 70,000 children will cross the border by the end of the year.
Rather than leave these children in overrun facilities, Dallas County has announced that it will house 2,000 immigrant children that are currently being held by the Department of Homeland Security along the Mexican border, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced at the Texas Democratic Convention this weekend.
“I support increased security at the border,” Jenkins said, “But that doesn't take care of the women and children already here.” Calling the situation on the border a “humanitarian crisis,” Jenkins described the move as one from “incarceration on our border to compassionate care in Dallas County.”
There's more after the jump.The federal government will be footing the bill for the move, as well as security while the children await immigration proceedings and foster care placement. The federal government will also attempt to reunite children with any family members they already have in the U.S.
“I think it's the compassionate thing to do,” said Dallas County Commissioner Theresa Daniel. “How we treat the most vulnerable in our society is a testament to our will.”
President Obama is also seeking over $2 billion to respond to the influx of immigrants. State Senator Wendy Davis is calling on Governor Rick Perry to convene a special legislative session to discuss the possibility of increasing state funding for border city and county officials, and to declare a State of Emergency to assist local law enforcement efforts. State Senator José Rodríguez has also called for a “humane way of detaining the children” that includes legal services and additional funding to meet their humanitarian needs. “Sending these child refugees back,” Rodríguez said, “is essentially giving them a death sentence in many cases.”
Meanwhile, conservatives are looking to beefing up border security as the solution. Some are calling on Perry to hold a special session as well, but only to focus on how to better keep immigrants out. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, for instance, has called for using these children to send a message to their home countries: “All the magnets attracting folks here must be turned off. No more benefits or special perks for illegal immigrants.”
But at least Jenkins is setting an example for those who are interesting in doing more for these refugees than punishing them. “My hope is that when Dallas County steps up,” Jenkins said, “the state and others will step up as well.”