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Report: 3,000 illegal immigrant teens to be held at Dallas convention center

U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to El Paso Sector, El Paso Station intercept a group of approximately 127 migrants. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)
March 16, 2021

The Biden administration is planning to hold at least 3,000 illegal immigrant teenagers in a convention center in downtown Dallas, Texas, amid a massive surge of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, a new report revealed Monday.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used to house the migrant teens for up to 90 days likely beginning this week, according to a notice obtained by The Associated Press that was sent to the Dallas City Council on Monday.

Federal officials described the facility as a “decompression center” and will use it to hold boys aged 15 to 17.

According to the memo, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will “be responsible for providing shelter management and contracts” for food, security, cleaning and medical care for the teens.

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax supported the decision, saying a statement, “collective action is necessary, and we will do our best to support this humanitarian effort.”

Sixty Red Cross volunteers were also sent to the facility, with more expected in the next week.

The move comes as President Biden’s administration struggles to handle the influx of migrants at the southern border. Last week, Border Patrol facilities held more than 3,200 migrant children, with nearly 1,400 being held beyond the 72-hour legal limit, according to documents obtained by the New York Times that described the facilities as “akin to jails” originally intended for adult migrants.

By law, unaccompanied children must be moved from border facilities to HHS shelters within three days of detainment, but border agents are encountering an average of over 400 children per day at the southern border, straining an already overwhelmed system.

Lawyers who interviewed a number of migrant youths late last week in Texas said some of the children were being held for as long as seven days, CBS News reported.

Neha Desai, a lawyer representing migrant children in U.S. government custody, said the children she spoke with were hungry, with several noting they could only shower once in seven days.

“Some of the boys said that conditions were so overcrowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor,” Desai added, according to her interviews with almost a dozen unaccompanied migrant children at the CBP facility in Donna, Texas.

CBS News reported that the Donna facility held over 1,800 people on March 2 – 729 percent it’s pandemic-restricted capacity, which is supposed to hold just 250 illegal immigrants.

“This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday while leading a large congressional delegation to El Paso, Texas. “There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis.”

Over the weekend, the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the U.S.-Mexico border to help care for the surge of unaccompanied migrant children pouring into the United States.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement Saturday announcing FEMA’s involvement at the southern border as part of a 90-day effort to gather, shelter and transfer the minors who cross the border illegally.

“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” Mayorkas said in the statement. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children.”

In February, over 100,000 migrants were encountered at the border, jumping 30 percent from January and almost tripling the number from the same period in 2020.