Almost 15,000 Migrant Children Now Held At Nearly Full Shelters
NPR – The number of immigrant children being held in government custody has reached almost 15,000, putting a network of federally contracted shelters across the country near capacity.
The national network of more than 100 shelters are 92 percent full, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The situation is forcing the government to consider a range of options.
Those could include releasing children more quickly to sponsors in the United States or expanding the already crowded shelter network.
Most of migrant children are teenaged boys from Central America who travel to the border alone.
Many are escaping poverty or gangs, and they plan to ask for asylum, and ultimately find work or go to school in the U.S.
Waves of these so-called unaccompanied children have arrived in recent years, and the numbers are on the rise again.
In November, according to Customs and Border Protection, an average of 175 unaccompanied children crossed the southern border every day.
The largest migrant youth shelter in the country is located in the community of Tornillo in remote west Texas.
Currently, 2,800 children live in heated, sand-colored tents set up on a patch of desert a few hundred yards from the Rio Grande.
The camp is staffed for 3,000 children. It can house up to 3,800 children, but that will require hiring more staff.
A source familiar with Tornillo’s operation, who asked not to be identified because this person had not been authorized to speak to the media, said the shelter is taking in roughly twice as many kids every week as it is able to release. “This is unsustainable,” the source said.
The federal government could add more beds at Tornillo or elsewhere. Another option is to release the minors more quickly to sponsors who agree to take the children — usually a family member who’s already living in the U.S.
The children stay with this sponsor while their asylum case is pending. Migrants Want “Better Amenities,” Entry to U.S.
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