The Biden administration plans to use a convention center in Dallas to hold more than 2,000 migrant teenagers, according to a Department of Homeland Security official and a city memo obtained by CNN.
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center would be temporarily used to shelter teenage boys who arrived at the US-Mexico border alone, the official said.
Rocky Vaz, director of the Office of Emergency Management in Dallas, described the facility as a “decompression center” and told city leaders it would house boys ages 15 to 17 “to help relieve the overcrowding currently at the border,” according to the memo.
The plans, first reported by The Associated Press, mark the latest attempt by the administration to keep up with the number of unaccompanied children at the US-Mexico border. In the absence of additional shelter space, facilities along the border have been under increased strain.
As of Sunday, there were more than 4,200 children in US Border Patrol custody.
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“We are examining a range of options to safely care for unaccompanied children and minimize stays in CBP facilities,” a Department of Health and Human Services official told CNN. “These options include bringing more permanent state licensed beds on line, increasing bed capacity through Influx Care Facilities like Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility and utilizing Emergency Intake Sites such as the one opened yesterday in Midland, Texas.”
Lawyers who spoke with about a dozen children held in a Border Patrol facility in Texas said kids were terrified, crying and worried about not being able to speak with family members. Some said they hadn’t seen sunlight in days. Others said that if they were lucky, they would go outside for 20 minutes every few days.
Officials have been scrambling to find space to accommodate children and cut down on their time in Border Patrol facilities, which are intended to process adults, not care for children.
HHS recently opened a new emergency intake site in Texas to process the growing number of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone, the department said.
Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tapped the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help move the process along of getting children out of Border Patrol custody into shelters better suited for them. FEMA is also helping to expand capacity, as well as provide food, water and basic medical care, an agency spokesperson said.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.