As long-term facilities for immigrant children reach capacity, the Biden administration has reopened a surge facility in South Texas, drawing criticism from lawmakers and immigration advocates alike.
The facility can hold up to 700 teenagers, and houses immigrant children between ages 13-17 who have crossed the border without a parent while government officials work to find their family members and vet them in order to release the child in their care. The site, made up of several trailers and large tents, is located in Carrizo Springs, about a 2-hour drive southwest of San Antonio.
The emergency shelter spans 66 acres and includes stations for legal services, classrooms and hair salons.
The news of the facility’s opening, first reported by the Washington Post this week, was condemned by RAICES, a San Antonio nonprofit that provides legal services to underserved immigrants.
“We are shocked and saddened that, after four years of widespread public condemnation to migrant children being held in cages at the border, this country is still detaining kids for nothing more than crossing a border. These children have relatives in the country and should be immediately reunited with them,” the organization said in a statement.
The Biden administration’s decision “represents a chilling continuity of the Trump administration’s attitudes towards immigrants,” the organization said.
“Though the Carrizo Springs facility is different from the ‘cages’ denounced during the Trump administration, it is still an unsuitable facility for children who have already endured great hardship,” according to the statement.
Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber told the Washington Post that the Biden administration retooled the facility to put more focus on child welfare, a departure from the previous administration’s reliance on law-enforcement presence.