DALLAS — Continuing his high-profile push to bring 2,000 children to Dallas after they crossed into Texas from Mexico, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins toured the border by helicopter.
The judge also visited a federal facility in McAllen, where the children are currently being housed.
State Sen. Royce West, a Democrat from Dallas, joined Jenkins on the visit along with prominent Dallas pastor Frederick Haynes, of the Friendship West Baptist Church.
Jenkins says the conditions at the Customs and Border Patrol facility are "heartbreaking." He said children are cramped into overcrowded cells meant for adults.
“You don’t need an advanced degree to see that these children have been through a lot," he said. "They’re in various stages of distress. I saw children crying. I saw children zoned out and just turning off,"
Jenkins' plans call for accepting the kids by the end of July. He had hoped that he would be able to publicly name the first local facility that would house the children Wednesday. However, federal teams are still vetting possible locations and have postponed the announcement until Thursday.
Jenkins says all the costs will be paid for by the federal government. Sen. West said the state should also get involved in housing children in what’s being called a humanitarian crisis.
"You’ve got to ask yourself if you believe that you are your brother’s keeper, then there has to be a role," he said. "You ask me what I’d push for? I’d push for (state involvement) as long as the federal government would ultimately pay for it."
The Border Patrol and the City of McAllen are scrambling to respond to the onslaught of unaccompanied kids arriving from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Experts say many were sent by their parents to escape violence and economic hardship. The mayor of McAllen says Jenkins’ county-level offer of help is a first-of-its-kind.
“Regardless of what you think about immigration, regardless of what you think about politics, these are children," Jenkins said. "And in Texas we take care of children."
Wednesday, Border Patrol told WFAA there have been 34 deaths of people crossing the Rio Grande this. There have also been reports of 46 girls and women who were on their journey. That number is more than all of last year’s combined numbers.
In Dallas, there’s been an outpouring of people who want to help the border children coming to the county. Currently, there's no official program set up. However, Judge Jenkins encourages the public to send a message to his office if they want to help and they will send a reply when opportunities are identified.
Messages can be sent to Lauren.Mish@dallascounty.org