Fort Bliss to hold up to 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children, HHS says

Immigration

Agency increases bed capacity at several facilities throughout Texas and California

Gate soldiers inspect all vehicles entering Fort Bliss September 17, 2001. (Photo by Bobbie DeHerrera/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it has increased bed capacity for unaccompanied migrant children at several facilities mostly in Texas, including two military installations.

With assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), HHS will turn the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio into an Emergency Intake Site (EIS) that could house up to 2,400 children.

HHS has also partnered up with the Department of Defense to use Fort Bliss in El Paso, which could potentially take in 5,000 children. Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, near San Antonio will also provide up to 350 beds.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aggressively works with its interagency partners to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are safe and unified with family members or other suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible,” HHS said in a news release.  

The agency said each EIS, will provide clean and comfortable sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, and access to medical services. All children will also be screened for COVID-19.

Other facilities at which HHS has increased bed capacity, include:

  • On February 22, HHS opened the Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility (ICF), Carrizo Springs, Texas adding an additional 952 beds to our care-provider network.
  • With the assistance of FEMA, on March 19, HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children in Midland, Texas with the potential capacity of 700 beds.
  • With the assistance of FEMA, on March 19, HHS opened an Emergency Intake Site in Dallas, TX, with the potential capacity of 2,300 beds.
  • On March 20, HHS announced it will open an Influx Care Facility (ICF) at Target Lodge Pecos North, in Pecos, Texas with the potential capacity of 2,000 beds.
  • On March 23, HHS announced it will open a second site in the Carrizo Springs, Texas area.  The Dimmit site will add an additional 500 Influx Care Facility (ICF) beds.
  • With the assistance of FEMA, on March 24, HHS announced it will open an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children at the San Diego Convention Center, with the initial potential capacity of 1,400 beds.
  • With the assistance of the Department of Defense (DOD) on March 25, HHS announced it will open Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) for Unaccompanied Children at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas with potential capacity of up to 5,000 beds and at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, near San Antonio, Texas with the potential capacity of up to 350 beds. 

HHS said it is also committed to safely releasing children to sponsors or transfer them to other of its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) care providers as quickly as possible. 

In the short-term, the agency said, ORR is working to ensure children don’t spend more than 72 hours in Border Patrol facilities.

At the same time, ORR will continue acquiring state-licensed beds in its care-provider network to reduce the need for Influx Care Facilities or EIS in the future.

Under U.S. law, children under the age of 18 caught crossing the border without a parent or legal guardian are labeled “unaccompanied” and must be transferred from Border Patrol facilities to HHS shelters within 72 hours. However, due to the dramatic rise in those migrant children many are kept well past a 72-hour court-imposed limit. 

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