The federal government is holding nearly 1,600 migrant children here, at what it calls a “temporary influx” shelter. It has added 250 beds in the last two months and could soon house 2,350 children who crossed the nation’s southern border on their own.
It is the country’s only such temporary quarters for migrant children, after the closure last month of a similar facility in south Texas, and the only shelter for migrant youths that is run by a for-profit company.
The site is a topic of heated debate, as immigration advocates and Democratic legislators complain many traumatized children who fled violence and poverty in their home countries are held in an institutionalized setting for too long before being released to sponsoring families who can better care for them.
Government officials say they are trying to safely release children to family members as fast as they can, and that the facility provides the first experience of stability that the children have had after long and often perilous journeys northward.
Their arduous journeys are not necessarily over: Some of the children will gain asylum, which can take years; others will be deported.