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Judge Acknowledges Possible Unaccompanied Children Housing Delays

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
Jack moved to Dallas after three years at WESH-TV, the NBC affil...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Dallas County Commissioners Court Judge Clay Jenkins says he knows he set an ambitious goal: By the end of this month, bring to Dallas County two thousand unaccompanied children from Central America who crossed the Texas border illegally.

On Thursday, Jenkins acknowledged there could be some delays. “There are a lot of people saying they don’t think they can meet this timeline, but my goal is to keep people on that timeline.”

As we first reported last night on CBS 11 News at 10, Grand Prairie Independent School District officials say the Lamar Alternative Education Center, one of three buildings the federal government is considering using to house the children, is far from ready and needs retrofitting.

Judge Jenkins discussed his plan in Dallas Wednesday with President Obama, Governor Perry, and other local elected and faith leaders. Arne Nelson, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Dallas was among them. His agency has helped children from Central America in the same situation for years.

“It’s very aggressive in my opinion, in my experience, to turn around a building like that and do all these things we want to do in less than a month. Good luck to them,” Nelson said. “I hope they can.”

Judge Jenkins says a lot still needs to be done before the children can arrive: The feds must finalize inspections of the three buildings, make sure they meet Texas standards, and then select a prime contractor to provide food, healthcare, and education for the children.

Jenkins has received sharp criticism for not presenting a formal plan to the public. But he says the feds must first draw up a contract with the public agencies that own the buildings.

“The federal government will need to negotiate leases with three sites, and we’re trying to expedite that as quickly as possible. Each of those leases would tell the public what would happen at that site.”

No word yet of a timetable from the federal government on when it will be able to bring the children to Dallas County.

Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack

(©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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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