Feds Open Two More Unaccompanied Migrant Child Detention Centers in West Texas

Minors are housed at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The minors are housed by the hundreds in eight pods that …
AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills,Pool

Continuing a recent trend, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the opening of two more Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) to hold unaccompanied children out of Customs and Border Protection custody.

The move mirrors recent announcements by HHS to address the surge in unaccompanied child migrants (UACs) at the southern border.

New EIS facilities will be located at two existing sites in Dimmit and Pecos Counties, Texas. The sites add capacity to receive another 2,440 minors from Border Patrol facilities. The first UACs began arriving April 5.

According to HHS, the EIS shelters will provide required standards of care for children, such as clean sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, and access to medical services. A COVID-19 health screening protocol for all children will reportedly be implemented to follow CDC guidelines. Services will be provided by a combination of contractors and federal staff – including teams from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

The Dimmit County EIS near Carrizo Springs will provide shelter for 13–17-year-old males and females with a 400-bed capacity. The Pecos EIS houses 2,000 beds for the same age groups.

The number of unaccompanied minors in United States custody has steadily climbed over the last several months. There are nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children being held by HHS and CBP. The number has risen nearly 1 percent per day over the last two weeks, according to HHS.

According to a law enforcement source within CBP, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended in March, an all-time monthly record. HHS is scrambling to keep up by opening facilities and increasing capacity at an unprecedented pace.

In March alone, HHS opened nine facilities. Although current protocols dictate the children may only be in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for 72 hours, many last 10 days, according to law enforcement sources. A number of Border Patrol facilities are facing issues with overcrowding.

HHS reports they accepted transfers of 754 unaccompanied children from CBP on April 4. The Border Patrol apprehended 414 children the same day. According to HHS, 242 unaccompanied children were discharged from custody to sponsors within the United States.

The potential detention capacity for unaccompanied children added by the Biden Administration since March 1 is more than 17,000 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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