A record number of children and teens are crossing into the United States from Mexico, and that’s forcing the Biden administration to find places to house them until they can be matched with a sponsor or family member.
Angela Kocherga, news director for KTEP in El Paso, told Texas Standard that what Republicans are now calling a “crisis” of unaccompanied minors at the border is part of larger immigration patterns that were temporarily stopped during the Trump administration’s so-called remain in Mexico policy. Unaccompanied minors no longer have to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed. But that means they are now being detained in Border Patrol facilities unequipped for long-term stays.
The Biden administration is looking for solutions to help ease overcrowding, such as the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday that about 3,000 youths will be housed at a “decompression center” there starting this week. Kocherga says such additional sites are needed to manage the increased number of children being detained by Border Patrol.
“The bottom line is they need somewhere for these children to go,” Kocherga said. “And again, these are supposed to be temporary places, but they need to find a way to handle this influx and do it in a humane manner.“
Under law, unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States must be released from the Border Patrol, to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services no later than 72 hours after being detained. But some are staying in Border Patrol facilities longer because there hasn’t been available space elsewhere.
The convention center in Dallas is supposed to help ease that overcrowding, and additional “pop-up” or tent facilities could also come soon.