Associated Press/Ivan Pierre Aguierre
- The US government is set to build a huge processing facility in El Paso, Texas, that could hold up to 800 migrants at a time.
- The Trump administration has come under fire in the past for detaining migrant children in cramped holding cells in Border Patrol facilities, and two young children recently died in the agency’s custody.
- Congress allocated $192 million to a new facility in the spending bill President Donald Trump was set to sign on Friday.
- The new facility must be equipped with adequate temperature controls, and must avoid "chain-link fence-type enclosures."
The Customs and Border Protection agency will soon be authorized to build a huge processing facility in El Paso, Texas that would be better equipped to hold migrant families.
In the bipartisan spending bill that President Donald Trump was set to sign on Friday, Congress allocated $192 million for the processing center.
Lawmakers explicitly said the facility must be outfitted with appropriate temperature controls, and must avoid the "chain-link fence-type enclosures" that have been criticized as "cages" in the past.
Customs and Border Protection via Associated Press
The government’s current facilities aren’t equipped to process the families now crossing the border
The news comes in the wake of the deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody late last year. Immigration advocates and healthcare experts seized on the tiny cells inside holding facilities that migrants are usually detained in after their arrests as part of the reason they died.
The cramped facilities have long been criticized for freezing temperatures, overcrowding, and unhygienic conditions, and Trump administration officials have conceded that they were not designed to accommodate children.
Since the deaths of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, Democrats and immigration rights advocates have been demanding improved facilities at the border to accommodate the surge of migrant families seeking asylum in the US each month.
Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez; Catarina Gomez via Associated Press
Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat, told The Washington Post on Thursday that CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan discussed plans for a new facility with her last week that’s designed to hold up to 800 migrants at a time.
"It’s long overdue," Escobar told The Post.
CBP did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Congress’ statement about the bill said lawmakers "expect the new El Paso facility and renovations to the existing processing center in McAllen, Texas, will make them more appropriate for use as temporary holding sites for individuals in CBP custody, particularly families and unaccompanied children."
Though border-crossing arrests remain at historic lows, the demographics of the migrants who are crossing has dramatically changed in recent years, posing new challenges for the agents who detain and process them.
Rather than the single adults who used to cross, Border Patrol has been encountering more and more Central American families with young children, who are uniquely vulnerable in custody.
"The government has known for almost five years that there are fewer and fewer Mexican single males coming across our border and more and more Central American families and unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America," Escobar told The Post.
- Read more:
- A pediatrician explains how migrant children can grow severely ill in Border Patrol custody before anyone notices — and what the agency needs to do about it
- THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BORDER CRISIS: Experts say there is no security crisis, but there is a simple way to fix immigration — and it’s not a wall
- 6 immigrants share why they fled to Canada at a rural New York border crossing in the middle of the woods
- ‘This golf course was built by illegals’: Unauthorized immigrants who reportedly worked for Trump illegally say they helped him get to where he is today
- Canada has a reputation for welcoming refugees — but with hundreds entering from the US each month, some fear that could change
- Asylum-seekers fleeing the US for Canada are figuring out how to do it by watching YouTube videos and scanning social media
- Police reportedly warned Trump’s New Jersey golf club that immigrant workers were suspected of using fake documents as early as 2011