New Shelters for Surge of Migrant Youths Crossing Border

On December 7, 2015 the New York Times reported that the federal government is moving to open two shelters to accommodate an influx of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the southwest border.

In addition to the new shelters, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has asked the Pentagon to add 5,000 more beds for young people.  During last year’s surge of undocumented persons, the military opened emergency shelters to house the migrants at bases in Oxnard, San Antonio and Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Furthermore, in the last month, more than 5,600 unaccompanied youths were caught at the southern border, mostly from Central America, more than double the number apprehended last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protections figures.

According to the L.A. Times, the Health Department already expanded from 7,900 to 8,400 youth shelter beds last month and they are not yet full.  But they are working with the millitary to plan and, “ensure an effective response to any changes in migration flows,” said Mark Weber, a Pentagon spokesman.

However, border officials claimed that the flow of unaccompanied minors in South Texas had not yet caused strain on their operations. They noted that the youths generally do not try to run away from Border Patrol agents, but instead turn themselves in, hoping to receive asylum.  Immigrant advocates said that they understood that the government was pressed to house young migrants, and that the shelters were stopgap measures. But they feared the youths may languish in the institutional settings.

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