The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the opening of yet another Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) to move the ever-increasing numbers of unaccompanied migrant children out of Border Patrol custody. The move mirrors recent announcements by HHS to address the surge in unaccompanied children migrants flooding across the southern border in record numbers.
HHS opened the newest EIS facility at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) in central Texas. The site, located on Lackland Air Force Base, will provide shelter for up to 372 boys aged 13-17 years old. It is the second EIS opened in San Antonio since March.
According to HHS, the EIS shelters provide the required standards of care for children. These include providing clean and comfortable sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, and access to medical services. A COVID-19 health screening protocol for all detained children will be implemented to follow CDC guidelines for preventing and controlling communicable diseases. Services are 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 number of unaccompanied minors in United States custody rose over the last several months and shows no signs of waning. There are more than 22,000 unaccompanied children being held by HHS and CBP at Border Patrol Stations and HHS facilities across the country.
According to a law enforcement source within CBP, Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children in March — an all-time monthly record. HHS is scrambling to keep up with the record numbers by adding facilities and increasing capacity to detain the unaccompanied children at a pace not seen before.
In March alone, HHS opened nine facilities to deal with the influx. Although current laws dictate the children may only be in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for 72 hours, many have been detained for over ten days according to law enforcement sources. A number of Border Patrol facilities are facing issues with overcrowding.
According to HHS, 394 unaccompanied children were discharged from custody to sponsors within the United States on Friday. The Border Patrol arrested 450 on the same day. The daily 30-day average for UAC’s apprehended by the Border Patrol stands at 494 per day according to the data released Friday.
The potential detention capacity for unaccompanied children added by the Biden administration since March 1 alone is over 18,000 beds. HHS estimates the cost to house each unaccompanied child in an EIS is approximately $775 per day. The Biden administration thus far has not communicated a clear plan to reduce the influx of unaccompanied children.
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.