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Dallas County IDs Three Potential Sites For Immigrant Children Who've Crossed Border

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Lauren Silverman
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KERA News
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, center, announced the North Texas sites that will shelter immigrant children.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Thursday identified  three North Texas sites that will potentially shelter the 2,000 immigrant children from Central America that are currently in McAllen.

They are Hulcy Middle School on Polk Street in Dallas; Lamar Alternative Education Program on Walnut Street in Grand Prairie; and a Parkland Hospital building on Butler Street.

The kids could arrive in North Texas by the end of July.

Buildings were identified for their security, exercise facilities, cafeterias and large play areas. 

"In Texas, we don’t turn our backs on children," Jenkins told reporters. "We're going to stand together and be proud that we have done the right thing for children."

Vetting for other sites will continue, county officials say. 

"Part of the reason for making this decision was my faith and wasn't just faith in God, it's the faith of the people in our community," Jenkins told reporters. 

Jenkins has been criticized in recent days by some who say he's politicizing the matter. Earlier this week, an email from the Jenkins re-election campaign said he's been under attack for getting involved in helping kids who've crossed the border. At Thursday's press conference, he defended himself. 

"If this is a political move, then I am the stupidest politician in Texas," Jenkins said.

More than 50,000 children have entered the country illegally in recent months. They’re coming from Central America and crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Many are trying to escape violence and drug cartels.

Jenkins is aware of protests in California where angry residents in one town forced buses carrying immigrants to turn around. He said he didn't think North Texans would turn their backs on kids.

"I think anytime you have 7 million people there are going to be some people who are upset and some people that oppose this idea, but this is about compassionate care of children," Jenkins said Thursday. "As a community, we’re going to be able to stand together and be proud that we have done what’s right for these children.”

Visited the border Wednesday

Jenkins was in the border town of McAllen Wednesday and toured immigration centers that are sheltering children.

The Dallas delegation, which included State Sen. Royce West, went to detention centers where mostly unaccompanied children were living. Reporters weren’t allowed inside. After the visit, West called what he saw deplorable. He saw 15 to 20 children stuffed in rooms designed for just five – and they shared one bathroom. Many of the kids hadn’t bathed in days, West said.

“Based on even the most fundamental standards that we have in the United States, the conditions they’re living in right now would not be acceptable to Texans,” West said.

Learn more

Read our coverage of Wednesday's visit here -- also, get caught up on the developments in recent days.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees keranews.org, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.