HOUSTON (CBSNEWS/AP) – An agency in Texas that contracts with the federal government to house thousands of immigrant children has signed a lease to turn a Houston warehouse into a temporary shelter. The Houston Chronicle reports that the application submitted to the state by Southwest Key Programs requests a license to hold up to 240 children.
Southwest Key operates several other facilities in Texas for children who were detained after illegally crossing the border on their own or who were separated from their parents after entering as a family.
In the coming days, federal officials will open a shelter in far West Texas for hundreds of children.
Many facilities in the U.S. government network that house children are at — or close to — capacity.
On Thursday, the government released video showing the inside of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility that’s sheltering children who entered the country illegally. The facility is a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, not far from the Mexican border, and it’s nearly filled to capacity.
The video selectively highlights young kids doing outdoor activities, receiving medical care and even playing with the residential pet dog. It houses just boys, ages 10 to 17.
The facility, known as Casa Padre, is the largest shelter facility in the U.S. for minors caught crossing the border illegally. But over the last month, the number of boys housed there has increased from around 1,200 to 1,500. While the majority of children at Casa Padre are kids who arrived at the border unaccompanied, it’s estimated that about five percent, or 70 boys, are living there because they were separated from their parents at the border.
From April 19 to May 31 this year, 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults at the border, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said Friday. The figures included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations, or possible criminal conduct by the adult, and they took place during a crackdown on illegal entries. An age breakdown was not provided.
Under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security officials are now referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
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