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Steps Being Taken To Make Sure Arriving Immigrant Kids Are Healthy

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Some people are expressing health concerns as hundreds, possibly thousands, of immigrant children head to North Texas.

While most of the children have not been immunized, there are reports that they could have diseases like swine flu and tuberculosis. But some of the concerns are unfounded.

County health officials say the children who will be housed in shelters won’t bring anything to North Texas that isn’t already here. Nevertheless, steps are being taken to make sure they children are healthy before they set out for the Lone Star State.

With some 2,000 immigrant children expected to call North Texas a temporary home by the end of the month, the clock is ticking and the questions keep coming.

“What’s the timeline? How long are they going to be here? What kind of community resources will be needed to house the immigrants here?” asked Dallas County homeowner Nia Khepera.

Homeowners in a neighborhood near D.A. Hulcy Middle School, one of the planned shelter sites in south Oak Cliff, say they are touched by the plight of the children, but still want to be kept informed.

“You do pour your heart out to them,” Khepera said. “But even with that, you still need a plan as to what’s going to happen in order to best serve them and eventually resolve this matter.”

Faced with social media fueled rumors about the potential health threat posed by the minor immigrants, county health officials are working to reassure the community that the children will receive health screenings prior to being transferred to North Texas. Local officials also say they are prepared to assist with the screenings and immunizations if necessary.

“But, at this point, no one has asked us,” said Zachary Thompson, the Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. “We’re standing ready to assist… to support not only the children but also to reassure Dallas County residents that there is no public health risk from the children being in Dallas County.”

The unaccompanied minors will also be confined to the specific shelter sites, and homeowner Deloris Nash thinks that’s a good idea. “I would hope they would do that, just to protect our children,” she said.

Nash says the plan to provide health screenings is a good start. But, she hopes that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has considered the long-term implications of caring for children arriving with no parents.

“I definitely hope he has a direct plan, because if not, this thing could get really ugly.”

Most of the homeowners who spoke with CBS 11 News on Monday were not very concerned about the potential health threat. Instead, they wanted assurances that the North Texas shelter locations would be secure and wouldn’t be a source of neighborhood crime.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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