U.S. Eyes Building ‘Tent Cities’ for Migrant Children

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The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The Department of Health and Human Services will visit Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso, to look at a parcel of land where the administration is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources. HHS officials confirmed that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and the Goodfellow base in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.

The aggressive plan comes at the same time that child shelters are filling up with more children who have been separated from their parents. The number of migrant children held in U.S. custody without their parents has increased more than 20 percent as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen roll out the administration’s new policy zero tolerance policy that separates children from their parents who now face prosecution. The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is responsible for the care of more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian and must routinely evaluate the needs and capacity of approximately 100 shelters , which are now 95 percent full. HHS can place unaccompanied children in an appropriate setting while a sponsor is identified who can care for the child while their immigration case proceeds. It helps protect the border but also prevents vulnerable kids to fall into the hands of traffickers, officials said. Trump has blamed Congress for allowing loopholes that require federal authorities to release illegal immigrants to await hearings for which many don’t show up.

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