The Biden administration is preparing to open a new tent facility in Texas to hold migrants crossing the border, as officials struggle to deal with the combination of a surge in numbers and the challenges of COVID-19.
The facility will open in Eagle Pass, Texas, in the Del Rio sector, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Fox News. The soft-sided facility is being installed in addition to a similar 185,000-square-foot site in Donna, Texas, which opened earlier this month.
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The facility, managed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is different from a center in Carrizo Springs, which was reactivated to serve only unaccompanied children (UAC) and is run by Health and Human Services (HHS).
In a statement, CBP said it was building the facility to “help house the migrants in our custody.”
“There have always been fluctuations in the number of people we meet at the border and we continue to adapt accordingly,” the statement said. “Since April 2020, CBP has seen an increase in Western Hemisphere border encounters due to worsening economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters impacting the area.”
“Based on past experience, assessment of operational requirements and challenges due to COVID-19 space constraints, we need additional processing facilities as we see increasing numbers of encounters,” he said. “As we work to build and improve permanent facilities for the safe and orderly processing of people at the border, temporary flexible side facilities are sometimes necessary to meet operational needs that may arise due to increased encounters, particularly in challenging circumstances. “
The Washington Post, which first reported on the new facility, reported that officials are also considering opening more facilities in Arizona, but plans are less advanced.
There has been an increase in the number of migrants moving to the border in recent weeks, amid a series of sweeping changes in Trump-era immigration and border security policies by the Biden administration.
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Recently, CBP has begun releasing immigrant families in the United States, restoring the “catch and release” practice that ended the Trump administration.
CBP said that three factors led to the decision to release illegal immigrant families: an increase in the trafficking of immigrants, specifically Central American families and unaccompanied children; Mexico’s refusal to accept additional families with children under the age of 12 in areas where migrant camps are growing increasingly, overwhelming shelter and services; and COVID-19, which has dramatically reduced the Border Patrol’s detention and transportation capacity.
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The administration has ended the construction of the wall on the southern border and has begun to let in migrants held in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). In addition, it has sought to put a moratorium on deportations.
While that has been blocked by a district judge in response to a Texas lawsuit, the administration, meanwhile, has issued guidance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that lowers priorities for arrests and deportations.
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The Biden administration is also under pressure from left-wing activists to end Title 42 restrictions that allow migrants to be quickly returned to their last country of origin due to the coronavirus pandemic. These restrictions do not apply to unaccompanied children.
However, the administration has not yet indicated that it will, and officials of various ages have warned migrants that they should not flock to the border.
“In response to public health challenges and in accordance with CDC authority, people detained at the border continue to be denied entry and returned,” an ICE spokesperson told Fox on Thursday. “His return is made from both CBP and ICE facilities.”
“This is not the time to get to the southwestern border of the United States and try to enter the United States,” the spokesperson said. “COVID-related travel restrictions remain in place and will be enforced. It will take time to rebuild our asylum process.”
Republicans have been sounding the alarm for weeks about a looming crisis at the border, accusing Biden of restoring the “pull factors” that encourage migrants to come north and weakening the systems established by the Trump administration to deal with. with the 2019 border crisis.
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Several House Republicans accused the administration this week of creating a humanitarian crisis at the border by adopting a radical agenda.
“The insistence of the far left on undermining American sovereignty by erasing our nation’s borders is dangerous under normal circumstances,” said the letter, signed by 19 House Republicans led by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana. “Your administration’s adoption of the far-left immigration agenda is creating a new humanitarian crisis at the border by drawing crowds of men, women and children.”
William LaJeunesse of Fox News contributed to this report.