New border facility opened to meet surge of unaccompanied children

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A worker installs barbed-wire on top of a fence at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary holding facility near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Donna, Texas. The tent facility will primarily be used as a temporary holding site for children and families who have entered the county illegally. (AP […]

DONNA, Texas (KXAN) — A new temporary facility now stands on the Texas border with Mexico, built to hold up to 500 people as law enforcement sees a surge of unaccompanied children crossing from Mexico.

The facility at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, around 10 miles southeast of McAllen, Texas, will remain open pending any changes in the number of people crossing the border between the ports of entry in South Texas.

“This effort is designed to minimize the impact to border security operations while fulfilling our humanitarian efforts,” said Manuel Padilla, Jr., Joint Task Force-West South Texas Corridor Commander. “We will work closely with all our partner agencies to maintain efficient operations.” The AP reported the 40,000-square-foot white canopy tent is in a field near the river, surrounded by a barbed wire-topped fence.

The majority of children are coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, respectively, CBP data showed, with the majority crossing at the Rio Grande sector in South Texas.

Once the unaccompanied children are processed, CBP will transfer them to either the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Refugee Resettlement or ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations. In some cases, individuals may be required to stay in CBP holding for up to 72 hours, the agency said.

Surges were also seen in the summer of 2015 and in 2014, garnering major media attention. At the time, pro bono attorney group Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) attributed the root of the surge to be violence driving out children in Central America. Many also blamed an Obama administration policy change on non-violent migrants arriving who claimed to have a “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries. 

Officials said in a statement they are working to discourage people from embarking on the dangerous trip to enter the U.S. illegally. CBP said families are easy prey for coyotes and transnational criminal organizations who will subject them to robbery, violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking or forced labor.

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