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Immigration Shelters Put Jenkins In Hot Seat

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins promised last week to house thousands of children who are desperate to cross the border into the United States. The announcement sent shockwaves across North Texas and throughout the nation. But does Jenkins actually have the power to do it?

When county officials first revealed that thousands of immigrant children might be sheltered in Dallas County, there was also a word that public input would be a part of the process. But, so far, no public forums have been scheduled. The issue is seeing a lot of discussion, however, at Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

More than 14 people signed up to speak for and against Dallas County housing about 2,000 immigrant children later this month.

Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell said that Jenkins is turning a federal problem into a Dallas County problem, with no input from any of his peers or the community at large. "There's been nothing on the court agenda," Cantrell said. "There's been no discussions in court, no court orders. There's been nothing."

Jenkins is working with federal officials on the humanitarian crisis.

Jenkins stated that he does not need the approval of commissioners, even though one of the designated shelter properties (Parkland Hospital) is county-owned. A total of three buildings in Dallas County have been offered up for young immigrants who are brought to North Texas.

Legal experts explained that Jenkins does have some latitude as Homeland Security and Emergency Management director. Dallas attorney Clint David said, "It goes beyond just addressing an emergency after it happens. It's also about preventing emergencies before they happen."

Cantrell argued that the federal government and numerous charities are already caring for these immigrant children. But, according to Jenkins, the county was asked to help relieve some of the overcrowded conditions at the border, and that is what he is trying to do.

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