New processing center opening for immigrant children
POSTED: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 6:46pm
UPDATED: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 9:00am
MCALLEN, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — A warehouse in McAllen is expected to alleviate the overcrowding of unaccompanied immigrant children at RGV Border Patrol stations.
Starting Friday morning, the 55,000-square-foot facility will operate as a temporary processing and holding center for up to 1,000 unaccompanied minors.
"They'll be able to be processed, provided shower, food, medical attention, all of the services that we want them to have and that are required for good health and hygiene,"explained Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks.
Inside, the warehouse is broken up into four separate pods--each one capable of holding up to 250 children.
The minors will be contained in these metal cage-like structures and provided foam rubber mats to sleep on.
As a temporary holding space, the children would ideally stay no longer than the general 72-hour processing time.
"This will be the stage that we try to get them from here immediately into [Health and Human Services] custody so they can put them in additional shelters," Oaks said.
The space will operate 24/7 with 40 people on duty at all times, ranging from Border Patrol agents to medical staff .
While the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children continues, many are questioning if this warehouse sends the wrong message that children who cross the border illegally will be given a place to stay instead of being sent back home.
"The issue is very complex," said Oaks. "I mean we're not talking about criminals or anything, we're talking about a population of people that everyone in this room would do everything they could to support. These are innocent children fleeing desperate times."
The facility will open at 8 a.m. on Friday morning.
Officials say the warehouse will remain open for at least the next 12 months, depending on the number of unaccompanied immigrant children that continue making that journey across the border.
Oaks says there are no future plans to build additional facilities like the McAllen warehouse, but that could change if the number of immigrant children crossing the border increases drastically.