The new U.S. Border Patrol temporary tent facility in El Paso is an air-conditioned complex with sleeping mats and baby changing tables, showers and laundry.
The “soft-sided temporary facility” can hold up to 500 people and is intended to help Border Patrol deal with the a continuous flow of Central American families crossing the El Paso border.
“It helps. It gives us that capacity to move people through the process quicker. That doesn’t mean it will stop the flow. It just means we can move people quicker than normal,” Border Patrol spokesman Agent Ramiro Cordero said.
The Border Patrol on Thursday hosted a tour for the news media of the facility set up to hold families on a 1.2 acre site on the grounds of the Border Patrol station next to the Patriot Freeway in Northeast El Paso.
Tents were empty Thursday afternoon but was ready to go into operation as soon as Thursday night, officials said. The Border Patrol set up another tent facility in Donna near McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
In El Paso, the plain white vinyl walls and the coolness of air-conditioning gave a sterile feel to the facility, made up of tents with lights and electricity.
Metal steps with chain-link fences on their sides climb up a small hill into the facility’s entrance. The plastic-like floor has the look of fake marble.
Rows of black metal benches sit in the entry tent where migrants will be processed and undergo intake and medical screenings.
A 32,000-square-foot temporary housing facility is divided into four pods, each capable of holding 125 people.
The pods have sleeping mats, baby changing tables and a small tower in the middle where agents will stand watch. The complex is also monitored by cameras.
Each pod has eight chemical toilets and four hand-washing stations.
The complex includes an indoor shower section with more than 30 stalls. Trailers with 40 laundry and drier machines, four storage trailers for detainees’ property, and a feeding area. Laundry and food services will be run by contractors, Cordero said.
U.S. Coast Guard medics and Border Patrol paramedics will be part of the medical personnel at the center.
The El Paso and Donna tent facilities were built under a $36.9 million four-month contract CBP awarded on April 18 to New York-based Deployed Resources, which provides large tent structures for disasters and special events.
The tents are needed because Border Patrol stations were not built to handle the current influx of migrant families, officials said.
This fiscal year, more than 53,000 family groups have been detained in the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, compared with about 3,000 families last year, according to agency data. The sector covers far West Texas and all of New Mexico.
“This is a temporary facility. It is not a detention facility,” said Cordero, explaining that migrants can be held for several hours, depending on the number of migrants arriving.
After migrants are taken into custody, they will first be taken to Border Patrol stations before being transported to the new facility. They are then processed and handed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which could detain them or release them to local shelters that help immigrants.
Border Patrol detains 580 migrants a day
The Border Patrol is detaining an average of 580 migrants a day in the El Paso region, most surrendering to agents in a bid for asylum, Cordero said.
There have been 94,000 apprehensions in the agency’s El Paso Sector since the fiscal year began in October, compared with about 13,000 a year ago.
Many of the migrants are arriving in groups of hundreds, which strains Border Patrol resources, officials said.
At about 2 a.m. Wednesday, a group of 219 migrants were detained at the border fence near Downtown El Paso, the Border Patrol said.
Agents also detained a migrant group of 243 early Wednesday and then a group of 209 early Thursday at the Antelope Wells port of entry in the remote Bootheel of New Mexico, which is part of the El Paso Sector.
Cordero said the huge numbers “bottlenecks the process.”
© 2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.