U.S. including 11,000 emergency beds for record-high variety of migrant youngsters getting into border custody

By repurposing convention centers, oil workers’ camps and military bases, the Biden administration has made unprecedented efforts to open 11,000 emergency beds for migrant children in response to the historic number of unaccompanied minors entering US border custody.

By the beginning of Wednesday, more than 16,500 unaccompanied migrant children were in federal detention. More than 11,500 of these children have been placed in shelters and shelters, while another 5,000 have been stranded in overcrowded border guards, which the Biden government says are unsuitable for minors.

US agents along the southern border are well on their way to arrest more than 16,000 unaccompanied children in March. This would be an all-time high. This emerges from an analysis of government filings reviewed by CBS News. The previous record high was reached in May 2019 when more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors were detained along the southern border in US custody.

To respond to the unprecedented surge in arrivals of migrant children traveling without parents or guardians, the U.S. government is well on its way to opening at least nine shelters in President Biden’s first three months in office. The Trump administration operated three inflow housing facilities for four years, only one of which is currently active.

Facilities the Biden administration has opened or plans to open include two convention centers in Dallas and San Diego, and an arena in San Antonio. A camp for oil workers in Midland, Texas has been converted into a makeshift animal shelter, while another in West Texas is due to take in children starting April. An emergency shelter for up to 500 children was built near Carrizo Springs, Texas on Wednesday, where a Trump-era inflow facility reopened last month.

Once seven facilities are fully operational, according to the refugee agency of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, which houses unaccompanied minors with a migrant background, they can collectively accommodate around 10,800 children until they can be placed with verified sponsors, who are usually family members, who live in the USA

Texas Department of Public Safety Patrols border along the Rio Grande River

A temporary Customs and Border Protection processing center will be seen from a Texas Department of Public Security helicopter on March 23, 2021 in Donna, Texas.

/ Getty Images

The Pentagon also announced late Wednesday that HHS would allow HHS to use a dormitory at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and land at Fort Bliss, west Texas, to house migrant children. It is unclear how many children each facility will host. The Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado is also currently being evaluated as a potential location for housing migrant children, the Pentagon confirmed.

Unlike the more than 170 accommodations overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for housing unaccompanied children, emergency or inflow facilities that have opened on federal properties are not approved by state agencies for housing minors – which has been a problem for immigrant lawyers in the past.

“We’ve railed against inflow facilities in the past. On the one hand, it’s difficult to see children in these facilities,” Jennifer Nadga, political director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, told CBS News. “On the flip side, ORR is doing things it has never done before – like opening emergency sites to get kids from CBP’s law enforcement agencies into rooms where child care professionals are employed.”

Nadga noted that the refugee agency has also recently made efforts to move children to godparents faster, including through creation a new process this week to expedite the release of minors with parents or guardians in the US

“These are steps that previous administrations have not taken and they are a sign of real change within the ORR,” said Nadga.

While Republican critics have portrayed the surge in the number of unaccompanied children being placed in US border custody as a humanitarian, national security, and public health crisis, the Biden administration has publicly presented it as a daunting logistical challenge considered that can be solved expansion of bed capacity for the young migrants.

Placing unaccompanied children and being allowed to seek US asylum or other forms of humanitarian refuge is not a new policy of the Biden administration. That process is set out in U.S. law, but the Trump administration suspended it last year by invoking a public health ordinance called Title 42, which was needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

After more than 15,000 unaccompanied children were evicted from the U.S.-Mexico border without due process, a federal judge blocked the practice in November 2020, declaring it violated both public health law and legal protections for minors with migration background. Just days after Mr Biden’s inauguration, a federal appeals court overturned the judge’s order, but the Biden government refused to fully reintroduce the policy, officially protecting unaccompanied children from Title 42 deportation.

Senior administrators have said they will not step back on their decision, calling the deportation of children inhuman. Instead, the government has said it wants to address the root causes of migration from Central America and expand the legal options for people in the region to come to the US as refugees or workers.

Mr Biden announced on Wednesday that he would tap Vice President Kamala Harris monitor the government’s efforts to reduce migration from Central America to the US, including working with Mexico and other governments in the region to tackle poverty, violence and other factors that cause families and children to move north .

Due to the limited protective capacity, many border guards have emerged, most of which were built to detain adult migrants overfilled. Children in US border custody have reported to lawyers who showered once every seven days. sleep on the floor because of overcrowding; and haven’t seen any sunlight for almost a week.

The Biden administration has not yet admitted journalists to Border Patrol facilities, but on Wednesday it allowed a network camera to document a joint visit to the White House and Congress at the Refugee Agency’s inflow facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, in more than 700 people are housed teenagers.

The boys with a migrant background there have access to medical examinations, classroom instructions, leisure activities such as football games and other services that cannot be found in border patrol stations. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York who toured the facility on Wednesday, said he spoke to some of the teenagers, many of whom were from Honduras and Guatemala.

“They said they would come for a future for a better future,” Espaillat told CBS News.

Ed O’Keefe, David Martin and Eleanor Watson contributed to the coverage.

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