(CNN) — The Joe Biden administration will open a facility to respond to the increase in arrests of unaccompanied migrant minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, the federal agency in charge of caring for minors told CNN in a statement.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will reopen a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, which can house about 700 children and can be expanded if necessary.
The reopening of the facility comes amid an increase in unaccompanied minors apprehensions on the southwest border, driven in part by deteriorating conditions in Latin America and a possible perceived relaxation of border security enforcement as well such as the reduction of capacity limits in other facilities due to covid-19. It also comes after President Joe Biden issued new immigration decrees that address migration to the southern border of the United States.
Unaccompanied minors who cross the border are detained by the Department of Homeland Security and referred to HHS, although a Trump-era policy also makes them subject to removal. If placed in care, case managers work to place a minor with a sponsor in the United States, such as a parent or relative.
The facility in Carrizo Springs will be used for minors who have medically completed quarantine for COVID-19 and will not be used for minors under 13, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency within HHS that is responsible for the care of children. migrants.
As of Thursday, there were approximately 4,730 minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“HHS is aware of the vulnerability of these children and our priority is the safety and well-being of each child in our care. HHS anticipates the need to begin placing minors in Carrizo Springs in 15 days or soon after, ”the agency said in a statement, citing limited capacity due in part to Covid-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has also had to deal with COVID-19 infections among minors and staff. As of last week, there have been a total of 1,748 covid-19 cases among minors, most of whom have recovered and been transferred from medical isolation. More than 21,000 coronavirus tests for minors have been completed in the program, according to the agency.
No minors who tested positive have required hospitalization, the agency said.
“The situation remains extremely fluid and can change rapidly,” the Office of Refugee Resettlement said in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security is also beginning to expand its processing capacity. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for example, is building flexible structures in Donna, Texas, to provide processing capacity in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the busiest regions for illegal border crossings, due to the closure of a nearby processing center due to renovation.
While fluctuations in migratory flows are common, the coronavirus pandemic complicates normal procedures.
Trump’s policies can’t all be reversed so quickly
Under President Donald Trump, the U.S.-Mexico border operated under hard-line policies intended to keep migrants out of the United States, including a policy that required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until their court dates in United States and a public health order that allows the rapid expulsion of migrants found by border agents.
The moves to increase capacity and shelter for migrants are indicative of one of the looming challenges for the Biden administration: more migrants at the border, but they also signal a shift in the Trump administration’s stance to reject everyone.
While administration officials have condemned Trump’s actions, they still rely on them as they determine next steps and demand patience as they work to reverse them.
“The decrees that were implemented on the first day (and Tuesday) are just the beginning,” said a senior administration official. “Completely remedying these actions will take time and will require a full government approach, but President Biden has been very clear about restoring compassion and order to our immigration system.”
In the absence of information on when border policies will be withdrawn, immigrant advocates and attorneys, who work directly with migrants along the southern border, have struggled for clarity to advise individuals, many of whom They are in life and death situations.
Linda Rivas, an immigration attorney and director of the Las Americas Immigrant Defense Center, a group that represents people in the “Remain in Mexico” program, has been trying to comfort her clients this week, including a Honduran mother who said who had been raped while waiting in Mexico under Trump-era politics and is now worried about her 11-year-old son.
“Definitely a loss of hope,” Rivas said. “The trauma they are enduring is unimaginable.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism