Biden Established 15K Detention Center Beds for Unaccompanied Migrant Children in March

Temporary processing facilities in Donna, Texas, safely processes family units and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) encountered and in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. The facility will bolsters processing capacity in the RGV while the permanent Centralized Processing Center in McAllen is renovated.
Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the opening of another child detention facility in Houston, Texas, located at the National Association of Christian Churches. The site and will receive the first 500 unaccompanied migrant children (UACs) on Friday, April 2. The full capacity of the facility was not announced.

This is the ninth facility opened by HHS in 30 days. The HHS has also opened at least two facilities on military bases and in major city convention centers.

According to the latest statistics provided by HHS, Border Patrol is currently detaining more than 5,000 UACs in cells designed for adult temporary detention. Although current protocols dictate the children may only be in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for 72 hours, many are held at least 10 days, according to law enforcement sources. Border Patrol facilities are facing issues with overcrowding.

HHS reports they accepted transfers of 626 unaccompanied children from CBP on March 31. Border Patrol apprehended 579 children the same day. Border Patrol, according to HHS, is holding a backlog of 5,285 unaccompanied children in their facilities. The net gain to the Border Patrol from the transfer to HHS is 47 from over the 5,000 awaiting transfer. Of the more than 18,000 unaccompanied children in custody, only 216 were released on March 31.

Unless the administration embarks on a completely new path, the only practical option is to continue to quickly open facilities to absorb the unaccompanied child migrant crisis.

In addition to the newest opening announced in Houston, HHS has opened the following centers in March 2021 alone.

  • March 19 — HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children in Midland, Texas, with the potential capacity of 700 beds.
  • March 19 — HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site in Dallas, Texas, with the potential capacity of 2,300 beds.
  • March 20 — HHS announced it will open an Influx Care Facility (ICF) at Target Lodge Pecos North, in Pecos, Texas, with the potential capacity of 2,000 beds.
  • March 23 — HHS announced it will open a second site in the Carrizo Springs, Texas, area. The Dimmit site will potentially add an additional 500 Influx Care Facility (ICF) beds.
  • March 25 — HHS announced it will open Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) for Unaccompanied Children at Joint Base San Antonio with the potential capacity of up to 350 beds.
  • March 27 — HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children at the San Diego Convention Center, with the initial potential capacity of 1,450 beds.
  • March 29 — HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children at the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio, Texas, with an internal potential capacity for 2,100 beds and an external capacity of 300 medical beds.
  • March 30 — HHS opened an Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) for Unaccompanied Children at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas with the potential capacity of up to 5,000 beds.

The potential detention capacity for unaccompanied children added by the Biden Administration this month alone exceeds 15,000 beds.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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