A New Migrant Processing Center Is Being Built In El Paso

The center will be able to house up to 800 people, though the Trump administration has also announced plans to detain asylum-seekers across the border in Juárez, Mexico.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 18, 2019 11:53 am,

The Washington Post reports that there are plans to build a massive new migrant processing center in El Paso. The facility, which will be capable of housing up to 800 people at a time will be designed, in part, to address concerns about how families requesting asylum are treated.

Bob Moore, one of the reporters covering the story, is the former editor of the El Paso Times. He says the center will occupy a former Hoover vacuum cleaner plant in western El Paso. It’s expected to open by April 15.

“For years we’ve heard complaints about what migrants refer to as ‘ICE boxes’ on the border,” Moore says. “These are small holding cells that were designed for single Mexican men to be held real briefly, [whereas] families crossing from Central America have been held for a week or more.”

These small, concrete cells in older detention centers are known for being very cold. Also, they don’t serve the current migrant population well.

Moore says that 61 percent of people crossing the border in January were families or unaccompanied minors. Also, many of those crossing the border aren’t coming to find employment like migrants in the past. Rather, they’re surrendering themselves to Border Patrol officers in order to seek asylum.

Border Patrol officials say they don’t want migrants held in detention facilities longer than 72 hours after apprehension. But with few other places for them to go, it’s happened anyway.

“They believe that with this processing center here, it will allow them to more quickly do the background checks required, and then process them for release if they’re asylum seekers,” Moore says. “And then they’ll probably be released to a nongovernmental organization.”

Moore says the new facility should also reduce health risks migrants can face while in detention.

“One big impetus behind this, of course, was the deaths of two Guatemalan children in CBP custody in the El Paso Border Patrol sector in December,” Moore says.

Moore says that the Trump administration will soon bring what are called “migration protection protocols,” or MPPs, to El Paso. Currently, the program, which has been implemented on a small scale in the border region of San Diego and Tijuana, houses would-be immigrants to the U.S. on the Mexican side of the border. Moore, who calls MPP “Orwellian,” says that Juárez, the Mexican city across the border from El Paso, is extremely dangerous.

“The plan is to try to force these asylum seekers to wait in Juárez while their asylum claims are processed, which could take two or three years,” Moore says.

Moore says it’s unclear why the new processing center would be needed if asylum-seekers will soon be required to remain on the Juárez side of the border anyway.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.