U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials announced the opening of two more Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) to move increasing numbers of unaccompanied children out of Customs and Border Protection custody. The move mirrors recent announcements by HHS to address the surge in unaccompanied children migrants flooding the southern border.
One new EIS facility will be located at Starr Commonwealth campus in Albion, Michigan, about 70 miles from the U.S.-Canada border. The Starr Commonwealth EIS will provide housing for children ages 12 and under and has a potential capacity of 240 beds. Another will open at Pennsylvania International Academy (PIA) in Erie, Pennsylvania. The PIA EIS will also provide shelter for children ages 12 and under and has a potential capacity of 648 beds.
According to HHS, the EIS shelters being brought into service will provide the required standards of care for children. Those standards include providing clean and comfortable sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, and access to medical services. A COVID-19 health screening protocol for all children will be implemented to follow CDC guidelines for preventing and controlling communicable diseases. Services will be provided by a combination of contractors and federal staff – including teams from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The number of unaccompanied minors in United States custody rose steadily over the last several months and shows no signs of waning. There are over 20,000 unaccompanied children being held by HHS and CBP at Border Patrol Stations and HHS facilities across the country.
According to a law enforcement source within CBP, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were arrested in March, an all-time monthly record. HHS scrambles to keep up with the record numbers by adding facilities and increasing capacity to detain the unaccompanied children at a pace not seen before.
In March alone, HHS opened nine facilities to deal with the influx. Although current laws dictate the children may only be in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for 72 hours, many have been detained for over ten days according to law enforcement sources. A number of Border Patrol facilities are facing issues with overcrowding.
According to HHS, 301 unaccompanied children were discharged from custody to sponsors within the United States. The running 30-day average for UAC’s apprehended by the Border Patrol stands at 511 per day according to data released Friday.
The potential detention capacity for unaccompanied children added by the Biden administration since March 1st alone is over 18,000 beds. HHS estimates the cost to house each unaccompanied child in an EIS is approximately $775 per day. The Biden administration thus far has not communicated a clear plan to reduce the influx of unaccompanied children.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas Sector.
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