PECOS, Texas (KXAN/NBC News) — A new temporary overflow facility for unaccompanied migrant children is opening in Pecos — and may potentially house 2,000 youths.
The Department of Health and Human Services says the Target Lodge Pecos North ICF facility will initially house about 500 asylum-seeking children when opened.
Immigration officials have recorded a dramatic rise in unaccompanied children over the last month.
As of Saturday, there were 5,049 unaccompanied minors and a total of 9,830 immigrants of all ages in Border Patrol custody. That’s an increase from Thursday, when 4,615 unaccompanied children and 7,970 immigrants in border patrol custody were reported.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has placed blame for the surge at the feet of the Biden administration, claiming its policies are not only allowing border traffic but encouraging it.
“The Biden administration must also answer for enticing unaccompanied minors into inhumane conditions that expose these children to traffickers. To abuse. And to terror,” Abbott said last week.
According to the governor, 11,000 minors have been apprehended crossing the border into Texas so far this year — he also claimed there had been a 60% increase from January (which was under the Trump administration) to February.
Abbott also accused President Joe Biden of “importing COVID into our country” via migrants, despite CNN reporting that Texas had not approved a federal grant that would have funded testing for migrants in Border Patrol custody.
The governor confirmed the denial of funds, saying Texas would “not aid a program that makes our country a magnet for illegal immigration.”
Handling the surge
Elsewhere in Texas, another large facility opened at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention in Center in Dallas, where 3,000 migrant teenage boys arrived on Wednesday. FEMA called the shelter a “decompression center,” and it will operate for at least 90 days.
HHS says minors housed at the facility in Pecos would receive “educational, medical, mental health and recreational services until they are united with families or sponsors.” The site will be “hard-sided” rather than tented, but semi-permanent “soft-sided” additions could be added if needed.
Overflow shelters are intended to free up room at U.S. Border Patrol sites, which aren’t supposed to hold children for longer than three days — but have increasingly been forced to do because of the high volume of arrivals.