Two tent cities are being planned for housing migrant families and children along the Texas border, acting Homeland Security Sec. Kevin McAleenan told reporters on Wednesday during a visit in Hidalgo, TX.
According to the New York Times, two tent cities containing “soft-sided facilities” are going up in El Paso and in Donna, TX, a town in the Rio Grande Valley, by April 30. They’ll be used as processing centers and temporary housing for detained migrant families and unaccompanied children.
It’s unclear how long detained migrants would be staying at the facilities, though a Border Patrol official cited requirements under the Flores Agreement that children, and therefore families with children, must be released from custody after 20 days. The sites will operate for eight months, and cost an estimated $37.2 million.
“It’s clear that all of our resources are being stretched thin,” McAleenan told reporters. “The system is full and we are beyond capacity.”
Speaking to reporters, McAleenan stated that immigration officials encountered or apprehended more than 103,000 migrants last month. According to the Times, arrivals for the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso sectors for the month of April are so far double and eight times what they were in April 2018, respectively. The tent cities, therefore, would be a solution to this influx of migrants, which have led to more crowding at border processing facilities and family detention centers.
Whereas families could be processed and released from detention and scheduled to appear before an immigration judge at a later court date, these detention facilities—even with a 20-day limit on families—act as another level of obstruction to migrants seeking asylum or freedom from their home countries otherwise.
At another makeshift tent city in the parking lot of the El Paso border patrol station, the Daily Beast has reported hundreds of people are being housed in five U.S. Army tents surrounded by fences with barbed wire, shoved together in close, unhealthy conditions for days, sleeping on a temporary floor covering asphalt. Rep. Nanette Barragán of California told the publication she visited the facility earlier this month, and said that people weren’t getting showers and were living in dirty clothing.
Per the Daily Beast, Barragán and immigration advocates questioned why the facility is necessary, why we’re holding these people given that more are coming, and why processing and releases are taking so long.
While officials argue that these spaces are necessary because of the influx of Central American migrants coming into the country, these new tent cities are just the latest effort from the Trump administration to complicate and restrict the immigration process. This announcement comes a day after Attorney General William Barr ordered immigration judges to deny bail for some migrants, a policy that would undoubtedly lead to more overcrowding of detention facilities.
The Trump administration, as well as the Obama administration, does have a history with temporary facilities. Last June, the Trump administration built a tent city in Tornillo, TX, for unaccompanied minors who were close to being released. Protesters decried the facility’s existence, holding vigils around the site through November and December. In January, the administration shut down the facility, but at the time argued that “influx facilities like Tornillo are necessary.”