HOUSTON – Here are some questions and answers about how the Houston area might be affected by the flood of children crossing the Texas-Mexico border.
Q: How many of them are in the Greater Houston area?
A: Only a few dozen. At least, so far. Federal authorities haven’t released an exact count, but only three shelters in our area are confirmed to be caring for some of the children. Authorities running two of those shelters in Galveston say they’re caring for 50 children. But federal authorities are considering using an unoccupied Houston school building as a shelter, so that number may increase dramatically.
Q: Will they attend public schools?
A: Federal authorities say no. In a list of answers to frequently asked questions, the Department of Health and Human Services specifically says the children do not attend public schools. “The majority of the youth are cared for through a network of state-licensed Office of Refugee Resettlement funded care providers that provide classroom education,” the HHS says.
Q: Will they pose a burden on Houston’s health care system?
A: The Office of Refugee Resettlement says its care providers are also responsible for medical care. “The reality is, as long as they’re in the custody of customs and immigration service, then they’re handling that,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “You know, I had people concerned about the health care or the health threat. And I said, look, they’re being checked at the border.”
Q: Are they carrying diseases into the United States?
A: Given the squalid conditions some of the children are fleeing, it’s a legitimate concern. All of them are not only examined, but also given needed childhood vaccinations, HHS says. They’re also screened for tuberculosis.
Q: Can’t the United States just send the children back to their home countries?
A: That’s one of the more interesting aspects of the entire crisis. A law passed with bipartisan congressional support and signed by President George W. Bush set the stage for this problem. The legislation was crafted to combat sex trafficking by granting new protections to unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from all countries except Canada and Mexico. Those children now have the right to an immigration hearing, but the deluge of unaccompanied youngsters flooding across the border far outstrips the capacity of the nation’s 234 immigration courts.