Those 2,000 immigrant children will not be coming to temporary shelters in Dallas County after all, the county's top elected official announced Thursday afternoon.
The big reason, County Judge Clay Jenkins said, is that far fewer kids are trying to cross the border now compared to a month ago.
Jenkins, who spoke in front of the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin Guadalupe, said the number of child refugees crossing from Mexico into Texas has dropped by half, from 300 per day in June, to 150 per day in July.
He said the reduced flow of children means that they can be housed at existing shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border and at three military bases: Lackland in San Antonio, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and the Ventura County naval base in California.
Just a few weeks ago, Jenkins generated national headlines -- and some controversy -- when he announced the county would welcome 2,000 of the kids being housed in overcrowded facilities along the border. The county offered the federal government two closed schools and a hospital building to become temporary shelters. Jenkins met with President Obama to discuss the matter earlier this month.
“The feeling that I have right now," Jenkins said, "is just gratitude to a faith community that stepped up and changed the national conversation from some fear and anger of faceless immigrants and border concerns to changing what it is really about, which is desperate children fleeing violence and potentially death.”
More than 57,000 immigrants, mostly unaccompanied children, have come from Central America this year. Many are fleeing violence and drug cartels in Central America and are brought to the U.S. by paid smugglers.
Jenkins said Dallas County would continue to have a role in dealing with the immigrant kids.
“We’ll be sending lawyers to Fort Sill, we’ll have lawyers going to Lackland," he said. "Just because there are not children here, does not mean we don’t need this legal community of close to 10,000 lawyers to stay engaged in this process.”
Read KERA's earlier coverage on this issue:
- July 2: Dallas County Makes Plans To Welcome 2,000 Immigrant Children
- July 3: Dallas County IDs Three Potential Sites For Immigrant Children Who've Crossed Border
- July 4: Judge Clay Jenkins On His Visit to McAllen, Plans For Immigrant Children
KERA's Shelley Kofler contributed to this report.