While the Obama administration has boasted about a decline in the number of apprehensions at the southern border, federal officials revealed this week that they are planning a new facility to house hundreds of illegal immigrant family units.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda told the Associated Press Thursday that the agency is working to “finalize contracts with construction and service providers” for a facility to temporarily house illegal immigrant family units in Dilley, Texas.
“Structures on the site may be used temporarily to house up to 680 residents while the new facilities are built,” she told the AP. She declined to reveal the number of adults with children the facility would house, how much it would cost, or when it would open.
The news of a new immigrant detention facility comes in the wake of a massive increase in the number of unaccompanied minors and family units apprehended illegally entering the United States. The crisis hit a fever pitch in the spring as the surge strained government resources and captured the attention of lawmakers in Washington. The hot months of July and August however saw major declines in the number of apprehensions.
“I am pleased that in August the number of apprehensions along the southwest border declined again, reflecting a continued sharp decline in the number of unaccompanied children and adults with children apprehended while attempting to cross our southwest border illegally at the Rio Grande Valley,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement this week. “This decline began around mid-June. In July the numbers of unaccompanied children were about half of what they were in June. August was even lower– lower than August 2013 and the lowest since February 2013.”
While there has been a decline, the department is still dealing with the crisis. The AP reports that in August, federal officials turned an all-male facility in Karnes City, Texas, into one that could house 532 mothers and children. Other facilities in New Mexico and Pennsylvania have a capacity of 800.
“ICE’s family residential centers are an effective option to maintain family units as they await the outcome of immigration hearings or return to their home countries,” Pruneda said in a statement to the AP. “ICE ensures that family detention facilities operate in an open environment that includes play rooms, social workers, medical care, and classrooms with state-certified teachers and bilingual teachers.”
The AP notes that advocates have expressed opposition to the government’s plan, saying there is a history of inhumane conditions in Texas immigrant detention facilities.