DALLAS (AP) — An apparent decline in the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally means Dallas County will not take in any kids despite an earlier offer to do so, the county's top elected official said Thursday.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that his earlier offer to house up to 2,000 children was declined by federal officials. Jenkins said he was told the number of children crossing into Texas has fallen and existing facilities have enough beds to house them.
Dallas is one of several communities nationwide that has volunteered to take in some of the more than 57,000 children who have entered the United States since October, an influx that has gotten international attention and demands for action at the border.
A federal spokesman did not return messages Thursday, but officials have been saying for the past couple of weeks that the flow of children from Central America has slowed considerably.
Border Patrol agents were arresting as many as 2,000 unaccompanied children a week in June. By mid-July, that figure had fallen to under 500. And a new processing center in McAllen built to house up to 1,000 children has not reached capacity. Visitors on two days last week said Border Patrol officials told them there were 65 and 40 children there on those respective days.
Jenkins' initial proposal to take in children became the focus of outcry in parts of Dallas and neighboring communities. He said he will now try to send lawyers and translators to help children who may not speak English and need help avoiding deportation.
"We're not here because it's our job," he said. "We're here because it's our desire."
Thousands of children primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have crossed the Texas-Mexico border to seek refuge in the United States. Many are trying to escape gang violence and poverty in their home countries, or to reunite with parents already living in the United States.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in McAllen, Texas, contributed to this report.
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