The Biden administration is expected to open its 12th overflow facility as it struggles to hold the more than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children in its custody as of Monday, an indication of the severity of the border crisis.
The Long Beach Convention Center will become the latest building to be repurposed by the federal government to hold children who show up at the southern border without their parents. It is the second California facility, after the San Diego Convention Center, that was seized by the Department of Health and Human Services to hold children for roughly one month while it searches for legitimate sponsors to release them to within the United States.
The Long Beach deal is pending city council approval Tuesday and could open to as many as 1,000 children as soon as next week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement announced late Monday that its emergency holding facilities in Pecos, Texas, and Carrizo Springs, Texas, both received their first transfers from the Border Patrol earlier in the day.
The first property, located at the Target Lodge in Pecos, will house up to 125 boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17. HHS first announced plans to stand up the additional holding center two weeks ago and said that it has the potential to be expanded to hold up to 2,000 children who show up at the southern border without a parent or guardian. The Dimmit facility was opened near another pop-up facility in Carrizo Springs. It can hold up to 440 boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17.
Since late February, the Biden administration has stood up 11 other facilities in two border states. Sites in Texas include two at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the National Association of Christian Churches in Houston, Fort Bliss near El Paso, the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio, a convention center in Dallas, and a site in Midland. The San Diego Convention Center in Southern California was opened in March.
All of these influx sites are in addition to existing HHS facilities where the government holds children for approximately one month while social workers search for sponsors in the U.S. to release the child to. As of this week, HHS has 13,500 beds available for children.
Children who cross the border alone are initially taken into custody by Border Patrol agents and not to be held at law enforcement stations more than three days while they are processed. However, due to the thousands of children coming across each week, Border Patrol facilities have become overcrowded. The largest pop-up tent site in Donna, Texas, had 5,700 people on site on one day in late March despite its 250-person maximum capacity.
Young girls who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without parents and were taken into custody by federal agents have been held in the Donna facility for three weeks due to space shortages at government health facilities. Federal border agents cannot release children into the U.S., unlike families. Children must be turned over to HHS, but HHS has the ability to refuse transfers if it does not have beds available, which creates a clog in the system.
HHS facilities divide children based on their gender and provide them with sleeping cots, meals, toiletries, laundry, and access to medical services.
Author: Anna Giaritelli
Source: Washington Examiner: Biden administration repurposing Long Beach Convention Center as 12th overflow facility for migrant children