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Residents Sound Off About Dallas County's Plans To House 2,000 Immigrant Children

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

The Dallas County Commissioners Court had a packed house Tuesday. Many in the audience were there to hear the latest on plans to temporarily house 2,000 children who’ve been detained at the border.

The issue wasn’t on the agenda, but people signed up anyway to chime in. One of the speakers included Jan Sanders, the widow of U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders. 

“The sheer number of unaccompanied children that are in Texas at this point have a created a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “Texas in particular has a challenge to meet this and Dallas has an opportunity to assist.”

Sanders reminded commissioners that her late husband presided over cases that had to do with the protection of human rights, and that helping migrant children was the right thing to do.

But others, like Eric Williams, disagreed. Williams is running as an independent against Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. He said residents haven't agreed to house kids in their community.

“Why are we not considering sending them to Highland Park versus Oak Cliff?” he asked commissioners. “District 30 is a majority minority district with high concentrations of poverty, no jobs, homelessness and hopelessness. Why here?”

After the meeting, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins responded to reporters’ questions about the negative response he’s received on his plan to bring migrant children to Dallas.

“I didn’t feel like I could wait to take a poll about helping children,” he said. “When it comes to children, then what we expect from our leaders is that they will lead. That’s what I intend to do and what I am doing. This community has stepped up and is meeting that challenge.”

President Obama is meeting with Gov. Rick Perry and local officials on Wednesday in Dallas. Jenkins said he was asked by the White House not to comment on details of that meeting.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.