New shelter for migrant minors to open in December




U.S. Border Patrol agents arrest a family unit attempting to enter the United States after crossing the Rio Grande River in McAllen, Texas, on Nov. 15, 2018. Photo by Ozzy Trevino | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A New Leaf will open a third shelter in Arizona to house migrant youth who arrived in the country alone or were separated from a parent or relative at the border, according to a federal agency. 

The new shelter will have capacity for 52 migrant minors and is expected to open in December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said. HHS contracts state-licensed facilities through the Office of Refugee Resettlement to care for migrant youth while they’re waiting to be reunified with their families or released to sponsors in the US.

Kyle Harris, spokesman with A New Leaf, declined to comment about the new shelter. 

According to an online job posting, A New Leaf’s new shelter will be located in the East Valley and service minors ages 12 to 17. 

A New Leaf currently operates two shelters in Mesa for migrant youth. 

At the beginning of 2019, its two shelters had capacity for about 40 migrant children. In May, HHS awarded A New Leaf $1 million for an expansion that allowed it to service 25 more migrant minors in its shelter spaces and place 32 others in temporary foster homes, the agency told Arizona Mirror at the time. In August, HHS gave the company another $1 million for an expansion of their migrant youth services, according to HHS

With the third A New Leaf shelter opening at the end of the year, the company will have a capacity to house 117 migrant minors in its facilities, and place 32 others in temporary foster homes. 

The new migrant youth shelter is part of an expansion in Arizona of places serving migrant minors who arrived at the border alone or were separated from their parent or relative. 

In June, Child Crisis Arizona began housing migrant infants and toddlers at its two facilities in Mesa and Phoenix, according to Reveal News. The Arizona Department of Health Services licenses Child Crisis Arizona as a child care center. 

Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix received $10 million in fiscal year 2019 to open a temporary foster care program for migrant youth called Nueva Esperanza

The state’s biggest operator of shelters for migrant minors, Southwest Key, recently reopened a Phoenix facility that can house up to 420 migrant youth. 

Both Southwest Key and A New Leaf are licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services as residential behavioral health facilities for children. 

Another Arizona provider of services to migrant youth is Tucson-based Vision Quest National, which has a long-term foster care residential program for migrant youth, HHS records show

The average stay in HHS-contracted facilities is 50 days, according to the agency’s latest figures. HHS also reports it has about 5,000 unaccompanied and separated migrant children and teens in its care. 

A New Leaf also provides health and housing services for “vulnerable populations” throughout Maricopa County, according to its website. 

In fiscal year 2019, A New Leaf received $9 million in federal funds for its migrant youth programs, according to HHS. Since 2011, the nonprofit has received $27.6 million in federal grants for its programs servicing migrant minors. 

Local groups and advocates have criticized HHS-contracted facilities for migrant children and teens for their lack of transparency and documented cases of abuse

Esther Duran Lumm, co-chair of the Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition said it’s disappointing that a new shelter for migrant minors is opening in Arizona. 

“Another shelter is disappointing, because you don’t know they are going to be in there well,” Duran Lumm said. “We never get told what happens to them. They are not transparent about anything. We get incomplete answers.” 

Duran Lumm added she calls facilities that house migrant children detention centers, not shetlers. 

“They have not committed any crime, they should not be in any type of detention, they should be allowed to connect with their families here in the US,” she said. 

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