DALLAS -– Moving 2,000 Central American children to Dallas County in a little more than two weeks still seems optimistic, considering how much work remains.
"If I don't set an aggressive timetable, it's going to take longer than it needs to," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "These children needed our help, yesterday."
Nothing can move forward, he explained, until the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chooses a contractor to operate the Dallas County shelters.
Jenkins told News 8 that one of the three existing locations – either Hulcy Middle School, Grand Prairie's Lamar campus or the Parkland facility – will definitely open for the unaccompanied children flooding into South Texas.
But it's uncertain if all three will, because other buildings in Dallas County are being offered up every day.
"These contracts are fairly rich for the property owner, in that you get your building put back to code and it's a 120-day to 240-day contract, so you've got quite a few people who see how the money flows and how it fixes their building that are offering their building,” Jenkins said.
Turns out, many children coming here will likely appear in immigration court without attorneys, unless they have a relative already in the U.S. who is able to afford legal representation.
During a taping of WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics to air Sunday morning at 9 a.m., an immigration attorney said the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association is now training local lawyers to represent the children for free.
"We're concerned that these children have proper representation. They do have the ability to obtain the services of a legal representative, but that's not provided by the government,” said Mary Elizabeth Cedillo Pereira.
Money is now moving to the forefront of the issue.
Jenkins said no other cities can follow Dallas County's lead in sheltering the Central American children until Congress passes the $3.7 billion emergency request President Obama is pushing for.
Jenkins flew to New Orleans on Friday night to meet with other counties and cities interested in following Dallas County’s lead in sheltering some of the children.
Milwaukee and Maricopa County, Arizona, have expressed interest, Jenkins said.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or potentially fostering children in the future, contact Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ office at 214-653-7949 or Shay.Cathey@dallascounty.org.