Dallas County Steps Up, Challenges Texas

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas County will house and care for more than 2,000 undocumented children who crossed the border unaccompanied in an influx that has overwhelmed federal immigration and state officials.
     Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the plan Saturday morning at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas.
     "I have offered our assistance to the federal government, and we are partnering to increase capacity to move a number of these children from incarceration on our border to compassionate care in Dallas County," Jenkins said in a speech to delegates. "As these plans are finalized and implemented, I ask you to stand with your Democratic leaders."
     More than 47,000 undocumented children were arrested in Texas between October 2013 and May this year - a 92 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. Border Patrol officials predict the number could reach 90,000 by the end of September, according to an agency memorandum.
     Jenkins said the county will partner with an unidentified city to house 1,000 children apiece, with the costs covered by the federal government.
     The children will arrive from federal immigration holding facilities in McAllen by the end of July. They will not be allowed to leave the local facilities while they await their date in immigration court - which can take years - and placement in foster care. Federal officials will be responsible for security at the local facilities.
     "Regardless of your stance on immigration or the causes for this human tragedy, we cannot turn our backs on the children that are already here," Jenkins said. "We can't help all, but we can help some."
     Jenkins hopes the announcement will encourage the state and other counties and cities to "step up" and help, he said in comments after his speech.
     He urged churches and other charities to help. The county will be contracted to house the children for at least 120 days, possibly longer.
     "I'm surprised that state leaders have not reached out to the federal government to offer facilities," Jenkins said. "I hope that this will inspire them as well.
     Jenkins' announcement came two weeks after Attorney General, and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Greg Abbott requested $30 million in emergency funding to deal with the influx .
     Days later, Texas officials announced a " surge " operation involving state troopers to fight illegal smuggling, human trafficking and cartel-related crime while Border Patrol agents deal with the humanitarian crisis.
     Facing growing calls for action, President Barack Obama then announced a $2 billion plan to build more family detention centers and immigration prosecutors to handle the increased caseloads.
     Under Obama's plan, millions of dollars will be provided to Central American countries for security and repatriation efforts.
     Texas' calls for help came days after the ACLU released a scathing report on immigrants being stuck in deplorable conditions in immigration prisons run by private contractors. The 104-page report, "Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System," is the result of a multiyear study of private immigration prisons, particularly five prisons in Texas, which are authorized to imprison 13,548 people.
     The U.S. Bureau of Prisons paid private prison companies $600 million in fiscal year 2013 to run "privately operated institutions," the ACLU said in the report.
     The companies are allegedly paid incentives for holding people in solitary confinement, and the Bureau of Prisons allegedly uses private contracts to avoid scrutiny and duck public records laws.
     Today's influx of unaccompanied children recapitulates the humanitarian crisis of 30 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of people immigrated illegally to the United States, fleeing U.S.-backed wars in Central America.
     Then, as now, unscrupulous alien smugglers, or coyotes, in Central America and Mexico are accused of seizing upon tangled and confusing U.S. immigration laws to dupe people into believing they can receive some sort of legalization if they come to the United States.
     This influx is attributed in part to coyotes' mischaracterization of the Obama administration's program to suspend deportation for some undocumented young people who were brought here as young children, and who lived, with their parents, as law-abiding de facto U.S. residents.
     The coyotes sometimes advertise their "services" in Central American newspapers, charge parents thousands of dollars to bring their children to the United States, then dump them in Texas and other border states.