Dallas County Commissioners will meet Tuesday morning as controversy builds over County Judge Clay Jenkins' recent announcement that the county would help the federal government set up centers for 2,000 immigrant children. The lone Republican county commissioner, Mike Cantrell, doesn’t think Jenkins’ idea is a good one.
Even though July 4th is over, Cantrell expects more fireworks at Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Court.
“The judge is unilaterally trying to make a federal problem into a Dallas County problem without any citizens having any input into the matter whatsoever," Cantrell said. "There has been no vote and no discussion in the Commissioner’s Court and it hasn’t been on any agenda.”
Cantrell says within a few days of Jenkins’ announcement, the judge started raising re-election money on the backs of children, even though Cantrell says they don’t need help.
“All of their needs are being met -- food, clothing shelter, physical, mental health care, phones, all needs are being provided to them," Cantrell said.
Last week, Jenkins told KERA that’s not what he saw after his trip to McAllen, where thousands of immigrant children are staying.
“These children are being kept in holding cells, like in the drunk tank at your county jail, in cells that are designed for one-fourth the number of children that are in the cells," Jenkins told KERA. "There’s no activity, no play area, the children are taking every inch of the cells, with their legs bunched up sitting on the floor, some crying, some zoned out.”
Jenkins says his move isn’t political, but American at its core.
“That’s what the Statue of Liberty is about," Jenkins said. "We don’t turn our backs on children.”
Cantrell says he wouldn’t do that, either. But he doesn’t want those here illegally to think they can stay. Treat the children humanely, he says, but send them home as soon as possible. Don’t find their family members or put them in foster care.
“We have a legal process to emigrate into the United States," Cantrell says. "This isn’t it. Follow the law. That’s what I’m asking them to do. Follow the law. At some point in time you’ve got to cut it off and let them know they’re better off staying at home with their families in chose countries. We can’t support everybody. That’s the frustration that’s out there right now.”
The frustration is expected to show itself Tuesday morning when Dallas County commissioners meet. While Jenkins has said the children can't be ignored, he also said commissioners need to hear from the community about his plan.