Federal agencies have decided to open two temporary shelters with 1,000 beds in South Texas to cope with the rising asylum-seeking children that has increased to a great extent over the past few months. It is the second expansion of federal migrant shelter space since November.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday asked the Pentagon to prepare cautionary contingency plans for 5,000 additional shelter beds in case the migrant flow continues to grow. The number of immigrant children crossing the Texas border without their parents is increasing rapidly.
To such a degree that the federal government is opening more shelters in California and Texas, possibly even in San Antonio to house them all. As much as 5,000 unaccompanied children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in October, the highest figure recorded in six years by the group tracking crossings. A total of 10,588 unaccompanied children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in October and November, more than double the 5,129 who crossed during the same two months last year, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. The number of family members crossing together has nearly tripled, to 12,505.
“We need to look at this as much more a refugee situation,” said Maureen Meyer, a senior associate for Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington Office. Migrating through Mexico and across the U.S. border is very dangerous, but “the level of desperation” in their home countries is making families decide it’s worth the risk, she said.
More migrants are crossing the border even as new checkpoints between Central America and the United States are turning thousands of people back, said Emilio Gonzalez, a political scientist and independent researcher in Mexico City. We are not talking traditional migration trends. This is a new refugee influx and it should be managed that way,” he said. “They could be candidates for international protection.”
Incoming family groups are usually sent first to detention centers, and adult migrants are often jailed when they are apprehended, but children traveling alone need special treatment under federal law, so officials have decided to open at least three shelters of which two will be in Texas and one in California in order to accommodate them.
“What we don’t want to have happen is have a backup of people” at the border, agency spokesman Mark Weber said. “We are making sure we have the capacity in place to take care of the children.”
By law, the Border Patrol has 72 hours to turn unaccompanied minors from Central America over to Health and Human Services, which is then responsible for their care until they are placed with a sponsor or have an immigration hearing.
Lakeview’s executive director, Jaroy Carpenter, announced that a team of 200 adults are ready to work with new arrivals at the camp.
“While here, these students will experience recreation, education, church services, and other typical camp programming,” Carpenter said in a letter on the camp’s website. “It is an absolute privilege that we have the facility, infrastructure, and support to coordinate such an opportunity in service to displaced children.”