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Dallas Judge: County Can Be Ready For Immigrant Children In 2 Weeks

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - Today President Trump is scheduled to meet with house republicans to discuss what steps to take next when it comes to immigration. That meeting is scheduled as children continue to be separated from their families.

Those separations at the border are nothing new, but according to the New York Times since the "zero-tolerance" policy began in early April the number of children taken from their families' number in the thousands, opposed to the hundreds in the six months prior. Now some of those children may be headed to North Texas to be housed here.

Last week Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins offered to help the federal government care for those children, but he says he still doesn't know if the feds will take him up on his offer.

In a phone interview Jenkins said, "If the roles were reversed and our children were separated from us in Honduras, I think we would want the same thing. We would want the community to rise up to help our children until they could be back in our arms again."

The Judge said the youngsters would be better cared for in Dallas, than at a Walmart turned detention center near Brownsville. He said it would take about two weeks to have facilities ready to house the undocumented children.

immigration - immigrant children
A 4-year-old Honduran girl carries a doll while walking with her immigrant mother, both released from a detention in McAllen, Texas. (credit: Loren Elliott/AFP/Getty Images)

"In no way would we be saying we support family separation or we want to see it last longer," Jenkins said. "We're simply saying as long as it's going on we want these children to experience as much love, compassion, and support as possible."

This is not the first time Dallas officials have made this type of offer. In 2014 the County agreed to house 2,000 undocumented children who crossed the border.

Less than 24 hours ago President Trump stood firm on his separation policy saying, "The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility."

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday the government has high standards for detention centers and the children separated at the border are well cared for, then she stressed that Congress needs to plug loopholes in the law so families can stay together.

At the border, an estimated 80 people pleaded guilty Monday to immigration charges, including some who asked the judge questions such as "What's going to happen to my daughter?" and "What will happen to my son?"

Attorneys at the hearings said the immigrants had brought two dozen boys and girls with them to the U.S., and the judge replied that he didn't know what would happen to their children.

Several groups of lawmakers toured a nearby facility in Brownsville, that houses hundreds of immigrant children.

Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico said the location was a former hospital converted into living quarters for children, with rooms divided by age group. There was even a small room for infants, complete with two high chairs, where two baby boys wore matching rugby style shirts with orange and white stripes.

Another group of lawmakers on Sunday visited an old warehouse in McAllen, where hundreds of children are being held in cages created by metal fencing. One cage held 20 youngsters.

More than 1,100 people were inside the facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children.

In Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the U.S., Border Patrol officials say they must crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others trying to get into the U.S. illegally.

"When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw," said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol's chief agent there.

President Trump along with most Republicans have long believed that they have held the upper hand on immigration. While Democrats have argued that most Americans support granting a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally, the Republican base is fervently opposed to such measures — and votes accordingly. That's why some political observers say this moment is so unique.

"It's been tough for Democrats to bring the issue of compassion out on a national scale" when talking about immigration, said James Aldrete, a Democratic campaign consultant in Texas. But now, Aldrete said, "Trump has done it for us."

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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