The federal government will use a convention center in Dallas to hold up to 3,000 young immigrants as the Biden administration scrambles to accommodate the surge of unaccompanied minors seeking entry to the U.S. at the Southern border.
According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, government officials will use the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a “decompression center” for thousands of immigrant males between the ages of 15 to 17.
That news follows a report that the government is already operating a tent city for about 1,000 young children outside of Midland, Texas.
The White House declined to confirm the reports, but press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is seeking additional shelter for young immigrants as media reports reveal that children are being kept in undesirable conditions for extended periods of time in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities designed for adults.
Many of the CBP facilities have exceeded capacity limits and children are being kept in small cells for time periods that extend beyond legal limits for holding minors.
“We’ve been looking at additional facilities to open, to move…unaccompanied children into facilities where they can access health care, educational resources, mental health resources, legal resources and we’d ensure that we’re meeting the standard we’ve set out,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the weekend directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist the government efforts to process, transfer and house unaccompanied children showing up at the border.
“A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said. “We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.
Media reports indicated about 4,2000 children are now in CBP holding facilities, the highest number ever and an increase of 1,000 children over last week.
More than 3,000 children have been kept in the jail-like holding cells for more than the 72 hours, exceeding legal limits.
“It’s not acceptable, but I think the challenge here is there are not that many options,” Psaki said. “We have a lot of critics but many are not putting forward solutions. The options here are sending the kids back on the journey, sending them to unvetted homes, or working to expedite sending them into shelters where they can get treatment by medical doctors, educational resources, legal resources and mental health counseling. That’s exactly what we’re focused on doing and this is an across the administration effort.”