Children who traveled alone, like those visited by Pelosi in Brownsville, are handled differently. By law, they must be transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of their arrest. From there, they are sent into a network of shelters until they can be reunited with family members while awaiting their day in immigration court.
Also Saturday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said up to 2,000 unaccompanied immigrant children could be transferred from overcrowded facilities in McAllen, Texas, to his county by the end of next month. He said the plan is to have youngsters spend about three weeks in the North Texas county before hopefully being placed with relatives who are elsewhere in the U.S. The federal government will cover the costs, Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, Pelosi said immigrants' cases should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
"We don't want our good nature abused by those who would misrepresent what's happening in the United States on the subject of immigration to affect how we deal with a refugee problem," she said.
The situation is drawing attention and politicians from both parties to South Texas. While Pelosi was speaking in Brownsville, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, appeared with the first lady of Honduras, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, in McAllen.
Next week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman and Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte is scheduled to lead members of that panel to the Rio Grande Valley, and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, is scheduled to hold a field hearing Thursday in McAllen.
Pelosi said she came to Brownsville at the invitation of local U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela to find out what Congress can do to help.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington and AP writer Will Weissert in Dallas contributed to this report.
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