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Top Stories: Dallas County May Shelter Immigrant Kids; 5 Years On The Financial Edge

Allison V. Smith
KERA News special contributor
Christopher Crowley, 39, walks to the DART station from his home in southeast Dallas.

The top local stories this evening from KERA News:

Dallas County could eventually host some of the immigrant children who've been separated from their parents along the Texas-Mexico border.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he's been in touch with federal officials, who have given him the go-ahead to identify Dallas buildings that could possibly be repurposed as shelters.

The Trump administration’s so-called "zero tolerance" policy has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents, who were detained while crossing the border illegally. Those children are currently in the care of federal officials.

“What we need right now is a relief valve from tent cities and dark Walmart buildings into a place where people like the people of Dallas can come in and provide these services,” Jenkins said.

He added that Dallas volunteers could offer compassion – as well as sports and arts activities. At the same time, the shelters could provide the physical and mental health care that children need.

“These kids are in toxic stress – whether you’re an unaccompanied minor, whether you’ve been separated from your parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us this causes not short-term, but irreparable harm.”

County officials plan to offer a list of possible shelters to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Jenkins said federal authorities would visit the sites, and potentially select shelters deemed suitable. However, there's no guarantee children would be sent to North Texas.

Other stories this evening:

  • Along the border, in Brownsville, there is a former Walmart-turned-detention center that houses immigrant children. The building, known as "Casa Padre,” is operated by the Austin-based nonprofit Southwest Key, which is facing mounting criticism for taking in thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. Marketplace reporter Andy Uhler told public radio's Texas Standard that the group's status as a nonprofit is complicated now that it’s expanded to locations across the country and is taking in more children – and more money.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz announced yesterday he will introduce a bill that would keep families together while their immigration cases are being heard. He calls it the "Protect Kids and Parents Act." The bill would also double the number of federal immigration judges and expedite asylum hearings. Those moves are very different from what Cruz told KERA's Krys Boyd earlier this month, when he defended the federal crackdown on immigration and the separation of families. Cruz's about-face came after a weekend protest, led by his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, outside a detention center in the border town of Tornillo.

  • KERA’s project One Crisis Away has looked at life on the financial edge for five years now – five years that have seen an economic boom in North Texas. Today, we're starting a new series that looks at how that boom has affected people who've been “one crisis away” from financial disaster. It's called “Still on the Edge,” and to start, we'll look at new research from the Communities Foundation of Texas and the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities. KERA's Courtney Collins talks with the Center's Frances Deviney about how despite the boom, this area still struggles with poverty and inequality.

You can listen to North Texas stories weekdays at 8:22 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM.