Group wants to bring large number of migrant children to Austin

Immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally are transported to a bus after U.S. Border Patrol agents detained about 75 immigrants who'd been living in hut for several days in a brushy area Thursday April 17, 2014 near North 10 St. and Sprague St. in McAllen, Texas. Agents spent about three hours rounding up the immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally after they responded to the area. Most of the immigrants are believed to be from Central America. (AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez)
Immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally are transported to a bus after U.S. Border Patrol agents detained about 75 immigrants who'd been living in hut for several days in a brushy area Thursday April 17, 2014 near North 10 St. and Sprague St. in McAllen, Texas. Agents spent about three hours rounding up the immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally after they responded to the area. Most of the immigrants are believed to be from Central America. (AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the surge of unaccompanied minors into America continues, organizations around the country are doing what they can to help, including here in Austin.

On Tuesday, Austin Interfaith spoke at the Travis County Commissioner’s meeting. Representatives say that Austin is ideal to being a recipient of the children; it is a welcoming city and has the resources necessary to do so.

For Ofelia Zapata, the future of migrant children hits close to home. “When you see on TV how the children are mistreated by officers…these are babies.”

Zapata is a member of Austin Interfaith and is on its strategy team. She sees the face of her own grandchild when she looks at the migrant children.

“Children who really have no guidance, no understanding what’s happening to them. That’s why my question is, why haven’t we done anything?”

Austin Interfaith believes it is possible to have an organized, coordinated effort to receive a large number of unaccompanied minors. They say, this shouldn’t be political.

“We need to put that aside. These are babies, these are human beings,” Zapata said.

The broad-based organization wants to follow Dallas’ lead, which has been proactive in committing resources to aid in the humanitarian response. The Austin Convention Center is one place they hope to shelter the children. The building was used to help thousands of evacuees after Hurricane Katrina.

“We provided services, some shelter, some food,” says Judge Samuel Biscoe, of the Travis County Commissioners Court.

Other places that could help shelter the children include The Long Center and the Travis County Exposition Center.

Biscoe says legally the county cannot go and bring children here. However, if they get here another way, funding is available to expand services to help.

“If they end up here, as Travis County residents, we would assist,” said Biscoe. He has also heard concerns from others saying the county should not spend local taxpayer dollars on out-of-county kids.

While the county is not actively preparing for the arrival of migrant children, officials realize it is a possibility in the future.

Community members who want to help out immediately can donate items.

Items needed include:

  • Trash bags
  • New children tennis shoes sizes 2-12
  • New children’s underwear
  • Baby toiletries (infant to toddler)
  • Disposable diapers
  • Backpacks
  • Easy open snacks
  • Easy open juice boxes
  • Children’s blankets
  • Baby wipes

Drop-off locations include:

St. James’ Episcopal Church
1941 Webberville Rd.
Austin, TX  78721
(512)371-6116From Mon-Fri 9-3. Sunday from Main church building.

AND

Keller Williams Austin Northwest
12515 Research Blvd.
Austin, TX  78759
(512) 346-3550
(Corner of Oak Knoll and US 183)

8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9-12 on Sat.

 

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