DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and State Representative Jason Villalba of Dallas represent different political parties and in different layers of government.
But they share a goal of helping the children and families who are being separated at the southern border after they’re accused of crossing the border illegally.
They are each going about it in different ways.
On Tuesday, Judge Jenkins asked the public to offer places that could host the children. “I would expect we would have a list of spaces within two days.”
The judge said he and others visited two potential spots: Dallas ISD’s Edison Middle School in West Dallas, which could house as many as 400 children, and the P.C. Cobb Athletic Complex in the Fair Park area of Dallas, which after some work, may be able to accommodate 125 to 150 teenage boys.
No final decisions have been made Jenkins said. “Our goal is to provide the children while they’re here as much compassion as possible and support as we can. The other goal is to make this crisis a little less chaotic.”
Jenkins is looking for spaces because the number of families being separated continues to grow.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said between May 5 and June 9, there were 2,342 children who were separated from their parents or legal guardians and that 2,206 adults were referred for prosecution for entering the country illegally.
Money to pay for any local shelters would come from the federal government.
But not everyone is on board.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said, “I still say Dallas has the highest child poverty rate in the country and so I’d want to take care of these children first.”
Judge Jenkins though said the money being spent by the federal government is exclusively for refugee children. “There’s no way for me to take those funds and use them for anything else.”
Also Tuesday, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus sent President Trump a letter calling on him to stop separating families that read in part, “Please listen to the growing number of Americans, faith leaders, and elected officials from both parties who are voicing our concerns about this growing crisis.”
Republican State Lawmaker Jason Villalba of Dallas said hearing children at the border crying for their parents overwhelmed him. “That just wrenched my heart in such a way that I had to speak.”
Villalba sent a letter to Governor Abbott, asking him to call on the President to change his policy. “I am keenly aware that this is a federal issue and that the states have no authority to change the “zero tolerance” policy that has resulted in the separation of these families. But I also know that you, as the leader of the 9th largest economy in the world, have the respect, power and credibility to plead the case of these innocent children to the President.”
Villalba also wants the state to provide facilities for families, if Congress passes a law to keep families together.
He pledged to raise money privately. “We don’t need to be spending Texas taxpayer dollars. I understand that. But I know there is benevolence in the people of Texas to find those necessary resources to put the funds together to raise the money for these facilities.”
President Donald Trump said Tuesday, “We’ve got to stop separation of the families”, but that “we can’t let people pour in.”
He said he only has two options on immigration: separating families or “open borders.”
The President though said he is asking Congress for a third option that would allow the administration to keep families together while being detained.
President Trump met with the House Republican Conference Tuesday evening at the Capitol.
The White House said, “In his remarks, he (the President) endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal.”
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul of Austin told reporters after the meeting, “The President is a thousand percent behind it.”
On Tuesday evening, Texas Senator Ted Cruz introduced emergency legislation called the Protect Kids and Parents Act, which he said would keep families together, doubles the number of immigration judges, and speeds up the process of handling asylum claims.