DALLAS — Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins made the announcement at the Texas Democratic Party Convention on Saturday morning, getting a loud round of applause with one simple statement. "We cannot turn our back on the children who are already here."
It was the venue where Jenkins chose to reveal his plan to work with the federal government to remove 2,000 immigrant children from facilities along the border and care from them in Dallas.
A sign saying "Texas Democrats" hung on the podium in front of him when he made the announcement, yet Jenkins has repeatedly said this initiative has nothing to do with politics.
"This is not about immigration; it's about children," he repeated again Monday.
But Jenkins brought politics into the picture himself, said Dallas County Republican Party chairman Wade Emmert.
"It's hard to say it's not political when he made it political when announcing it at the Democratic Convention," Emmert said. "Now he's trying to raise money on it."
Jenkins' re-election campaign sent an e-mail to supporters Monday. The subject line was: "Today's the deadline. I'm under attack and need your help."
Monday is the deadline for candidates to submit their campaign finance reports for the first six months of 2014.
The e-mail said that being the first to offer help to the children on the border made Jenkins a "target." He said people are "not only organizing against this effort, but vowing to go after me personally and unseat me." There was also a direct link in the e-mail to a donation page for his re-election campaign.
Emmert said it was distasteful.
"Look, I can appreciate the humanitarian effort," he said. "Dallas County has a long history in humanitarian efforts. What we don't have a long history in is trying to turn these humanitarian issues and humanitarian crises into a political fundraiser. That's just uncalled for."
Jenkins referred to the huge number of negative comments and responses posted with news stories regarding his plan.
"To those people I'd say, 'What's your plan for taking care of these children?'" he asked. "I'm just going to do my job, the job I was elected to do."
Jenkins said the effort to care for young immigrants will be paid for in full by the federal government. "Federal contractors will provide every need for the children — the medical, the education," he said. They will be housed in Dallas County, at locations that have yet to be announced.
The Dallas Independent School District has offered three campuses as potential sites.
"Dallas ISD has been approached by various authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, to determine the possibility of temporarily housing children who have recently entered the country," the district said in a written statement on Monday. "We are in the initial stages of discussing ways to be supportive. While a limited number of district sites have been visited, it is too early in this process to know how the district may eventually be involved in housing and/or educating these children."
Jenkins added that there will be an opportunity for volunteers and charity organizations to help once the children are in Dallas. He will be meeting with a coalition of disaster relief organizations on Tuesday.
"It will be a great opportunity for our community to show compassion," Jenkins said. "For us to illustrate that we'll do what we tell our children to do."
He said while the federal contractors handle their basic needs, "we will be able to come in and provide joy and compassion on top of that."