Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the opening of another Emergency Intake Site (EIS) to move increasing numbers of unaccompanied children out of Customs and Border Protection custody.
The development follows recent announcements by HHS to address the surge in unaccompanied children flooding the southern border.
The new EIS facility will be located at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California. The center will receive 150 unaccompanied migrant children on Thursday, April 22. The Emergency Intake Site will provide shelter for up to 1,000 females under the age of 17 and boys under 12 years of age. HHS has opened 15 EISs since February. One, located in Houston, Texas, recently closed without any reasons given.
According to HHS, the shelters provide required standards of care for children, such as clean and comfortable sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, and medical services. A COVID-19 health screening protocol for all children will 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 number of unaccompanied minors in United States custody has steadily risen over the last several months and shows no signs of reversing. As of Wednesday, HHS statistics show there are 23,000 unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of CBP or HHS. Border Patrol apprehended 620 that same day. HHS released 335 to sponsors within the United States on that day as well.
HHS attempts to move the unaccompanied migrant children from temporary holding facilities at Border Patrol stations as quickly as possible, but cannot keep up with the current rate of apprehensions. According to a law enforcement source within CBP, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were arrested in March, an all-time monthly record.
Although current protocols dictate the children may only be in CBP custody for 72 hours, many are detained for 10 days, according to law enforcement sources. A number of Border Patrol facilities are facing issues with overcrowding.
HHS estimates the cost to house each unaccompanied child in an EIS is approximately $775 per day. The cost is lower at other HHS shelters which provide more permanent housing. Based on their cost estimates, daily expenses for the care of the UACs in HHS custody exceed $9 million per day.
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.