Facility for 1,300 migrant minors opens in Texas




    Image from the Studios at Carrizo Springs website, December 2013

    An emergency influx facility opened on June 30 in South Texas to hold up to 1,300 migrant teens who arrived in the country alone to seek protections, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday. 

    The building will hold migrant boys and girls ages 13 to 17 in a renovated facility that was formerly a housing compound for oil-field workers in the city of Carrizo Springs known as “The Studios at Carrizo Springs.” It will be operated by BCFS Health and Human Services, a San Antonio-based non-profit that runs other shelters for migrant children and teens in Texas.

    The Carrizo Springs site is the newest facility to open as the federal government increases its detention capacity for the thousands of migrant families and children, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who have arrived to the U.S. border with Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on Friday opened a tent facility in Yuma for unaccompanied migrant teens and families to stay for a few days. The Yuma site has capacity for 500 people. 

    HHS has custody for all migrant minors who arrived to the U.S. unaccompanied. HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement places them in 168 facilities, which are mostly operated by private contractors, in 23 states to house and care for migrant youth. The minors are in those facilities until they are placed with a sponsor. 

    According to HHS, the average stay at those shetlers is 45 days. 

    There are 13,200 migrant children and teens in those facilities, HHS estimated in July. 

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which detains the migrant youth once they cross the border or after they present themselves at a port of entry, has referred more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors to HHS since October, according to HHS. 

    In Arizona, there are several operators of migrant youth shelters, including Southwest Key and A New Leaf, which are licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services as residential behavioral health facilities for children. Tucson-based Vision Quest National has a long-term foster care residential program for migrant youth, HHS records show. Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix received $5.3 million this fiscal year from HHS for a transitional foster care program for migrant youth, and Phoenix-based Crisis Nursery received $2.4 million this year from HHS to operate a shelter for migrant youth, according to federal records. 

    BCFS HHS, the operator of the new Texas shetler, has received about $1 billion in federal funds for its unaccompanied children operations, according to HHS.

    HHS also announced Monday it will issue $300 million to BCFS HHS in supplemental funding this fiscal year for the Carrizo Springs facility. 

    A government watchdog report published in December that found BCFS HHS didn’t follow required notification release of minors and other policies regarding prompt care and sponsor background checks.

    Laura Gómez
    Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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