More than 200 underage migrants housed in facility at southern US borderTuesday, March 02, 2021
WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Faced with surging numbers of unaccompanied minors at the southern US border, President Joe Biden's administration reopened a temporary reception facility that on Tuesday housed more than 200 teenagers, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
The facility, located in Carrizo Springs, Texas, was initially intended to house oil workers and was used to accommodate young migrants for a month in July 2019, under Donald Trump's administration.
Dealing with "increasing numbers" of unaccompanied children, as well as restrictions on structures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration reopened the facility on February 22.
As of Tuesday, 214 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 were living there, HHS said in a statement.
The number of underage migrants arriving alone at the border with Mexico had fallen to a low of 741 in April 2020 and has been rising steadily since, to 5,871 in January.
The arrivals represent "a challenge at the border that we are managing," interior secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday, denying that there was a border crisis.
The opening of the Carrizo facility, capable of housing 700 people, has raised eyebrows among migrant rights activists and organizations.
"Carrizo Springs detention facility cannot become the status quo for children," Amnesty International said.
In a weekend interview, Biden said he hoped to be able to close the facility quickly.
The HHS department plans to speed up the verification process for "sponsors," generally family members, with whom unaccompanied underage migrants can be reunited.
This would reduce the length of their stay in such facilities and avoid overcrowding if arrivals remain high.
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