The Trump administration has selected federal land in Texas as a place to temporarily house unaccompanied immigrant children, as the agency seeks more capacity amid the increasing number of families separated at the border because of the administration’s policies.
In a statement, the office that handles child settlement within the Health and Human Services Department said it had chosen a location in Texas to handle the influx.
“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with the support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has selected Tornillo Land Port of Entry as a temporary shelter location for unaccompanied alien children cared for by HHS’ Administration for Children and Families,” said spokesman Kenneth Wolfe. “HHS will continue to keep local and congressional officials informed during this selection process.”
Based on laws and court rulings, undocumented immigrant children are turned over to HHS for care if they arrive in the US without a parent or guardian or are separated from one.
CNN reported in May that the Trump administration had decided to refer anyone found crossing into the US illegally for federal prosecution, meaning that adults coming across the border with children will be separated from them as the parents await their criminal proceedings. The move is expected to lead to a sharp uptick in the number of children separated from parents at the border.
HHS has previously said it is operating near capacity and is searching for additional locations to house the children.
The temporary shelter in Tornillo, Texas, will be made up of “soft-sided structures,” according to Wolfe. He said that initially there will be 360 beds, with more added if needed.
The buildings, also known as “semipermanent structures,” will have full cooling and heating systems, floors and doors, Wolfe said.
“The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families provides the same high level of care and services to UAC (unaccompanied alien children) in semipermanent structures as in permanent structures, including medical care and recreation activities,” Wolfe added.
Temperatures in the area hit the high 90s Thursday afternoon.