July 31, 2014 / 10:15 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. tells Dallas county no need for it to house immigrants: commissioner

DALLAS (Reuters) - Federal authorities rejected plans to house up to 2,000 children from Central America in temporary shelters in Dallas County, saying the need had waned due to a falling number of immigrants arriving, a county commissioner said on Thursday.

Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins, 50, offered federal authorities the use of two empty schools and a warehouse in the county, a politically risky move that came as he was running for re-election in November for his seat as the top county official.

“Health and Human Services has decided to stand down efforts to create more temporary sites outside military basis,” Jenkins told a news conference. “Due to strong community support, had sites been selected, the first choice would have been here.”

Jenkins, a Democrat who has the authority as the top county official to allocate space for the children, said he made the offer because it was the morally correct thing to do.

In other parts of the United States, a few major Democratic-led cities such as Los Angeles and Syracuse, New York have raised their hand to help, but the Dallas County plan stood out in a state that is a Republican stronghold.

During the nine months ended on June 30, more than 57,000 children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. government data.

The number of child refugees crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley has slowed from over 300 unaccompanied minor refugees per day in June to less than 150 in July and has been trending lower, Jenkins said.

The surge of migrants has inundated authorities in Texas, sparking protests in places like Murrieta, California, and Oracle, Arizona, where some migrants were to be sent for processing at overflow centers.

Jenkins’ proposal was in stark contrast to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s tough stance on the recent huge influx of illegal migrants, many of them children, fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Perry has ordered the deployment of National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.

The Jenkins plan met with some resistance in the county, with protests in Dallas over the weekend among those who said the county should not be burdened with a federal problem.

President Barack Obama has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the issue. The Democratic-controlled Senate is weighing a $2.7 billion emergency funding bill, and the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday wrestled with the issue.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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