It is the latest move by the administration to try to ease overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities and transfer unaccompanied minors who have been held in those facilities, similar to prison conditions, for extended periods.
The Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the Department of Defense to use the property at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, and Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, with the potential capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 beds and about 350 beds, respectively. .
“This support will be fully reimbursable and will not adversely affect military training, operations, readiness, or other military requirements, including National Guard and Reserve readiness. HHS will maintain custody and responsibility for the welfare and support of these children at all times in the facility, “Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
In recent weeks, officials have been quick to find a place of refuge for the growing number of migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border. Once the children are taken into the custody of the Border Patrol, they are supposed to be turned over to HHS, which is charged with the care of migrant children.
HHS oversees a wide network of shelters where these children are placed until they can be relocated with sponsors, such as parents or relatives, to the United States. But amid Covid-19 limitations and the accelerating pace of arrivals, the administration has struggled to move unaccompanied children out of border facilities designed for adults into HHS care within the legal 72-hour limit.
As of Tuesday, 4,962 children were in Customs and Border Protection facilities, according to government data, and 11,551 children were in the custody of Health and Human Services.
Under mounting pressure to provide access to the facilities, a group of White House officials and members of Congress toured a facility that houses unaccompanied migrant children in Texas on Wednesday in the company of a news camera.
The Carrizo Springs, Texas facility is one example of the types of shelters the administration has been struggling to find to house children. These facilities, overseen by HHS, are equipped to provide medical services, dormitories and other support.
“We have worked, and our office has been working, to build capacity, but with Covid and the Covid-related distancing, that capacity was reduced by 40%. From the beginning, we worked under very limited conditions,” said Cindy Huang, Director. from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency under HHS, told the pool reporter that he was traveling with the delegation.
“This administration began on January 20 and from day one has been mobilizing an inter-institutional solution,” he added.
The activation of the two military sites is part of that effort. The Biden administration is also leveraging the use of three convention centers, in Dallas, San Antonio, and San Diego, and has established an emergency intake site in Midland, Texas, and two other influx facilities in Pecos, Texas. and Carrizo. Springs