Grand Prairie leaders 'more at ease' with hosting undocumented kids

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by TODD UNGER/ WFAA

WFAA

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 9:28 AM

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Four days after firing off a strong letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, city leaders in Grand Prairie are "more at ease" with the possibility of housing hundreds of undocumented and unaccompanied children at a former elementary school.

Jenkins met with neighbors, and also with City Council member Tony Shotwell on Sunday.

"I personally went door-to-door to all of the houses around the school," Jenkins said. "I want to give them accurate information."

Last week, word emerged that the former Lamar Alternative Education Center at 2099 Walnut Street was one of three possible sites in Dallas County where undocumented children could start being housed by early next month.

Grand Prairie's mayor and other city officials said they were caught off-guard by the decision. They wrote a letter to Jenkins and the school district expressing concerns about the building itself, as well as what security measures would be taken for the surrounding neighborhood.

But after meeting with Jenkins on Sunday — and receiving few complaints — the city is ready to move forward.

"We're included in the conversation now," Shotwell said in a brief phone conversation. "We went and talked to a lot of the residents ... there really wasn't anyone strongly opposed."

Jenkins said if the Lamar site is ultimately selected, the building would be retrofitted. He said federal contractors would help with staffing and security of the facility.

"During the time we are there, this will be one of the safest places in America," he told News 8. "Not only do you have police, but federal contractors will make sure the facility is secure."

A final decision should come by week's end.

A former middle school in Dallas, D.A. Hulcy, and a former warehouse near Parkland Memorial Hospital are also being considered for temporary housing.

Jenkins said many of the children would be saying in North Texas from 120 to 240 days, although he said it was possible some might stay in the area for up to a year.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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