US government officials are scrambling to find bed space for some 15,500 unaccompanied immigrant children who have poured over the southern border in record numbers.
US Customs and Border Protection officials reported Saturday that more than 5,000 minor immigrants are being held in facilities along the Mexican border — including a make-shift tent facility in southern Texas, CBS News reported.
Nearly 10,500 others are being sheltered in emergency shelters by the Department of Health and Human Services, CBS said.
The border crisis comes as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday that unaccompanied minors will not be turned away.
But border officials are being overwhelmed by the numbers — more than 9,400 children crossed the border illegally last month, a February record, and the number is expected to spike again this month when more than 500 migrant minors are crossing daily.
“The staggering number of children in CBP custody is both heartbreaking and profoundly concerning,” Neha Desai, a lawyer for some of the children, told CBS.
Desai said she credited the Biden administration for its commitment “to humanely addressing the humanitarian situation” at the border.
But, she added, “time will tell whether the government’s good intentions and hard work will translate into the changes that are urgently needed.”
The children, who enter the US without their parents or another adult, are now spending an average of 136 hours in border patrol custody before being turned over to Heath and Human Services.
The amount of time allowed under US law is 72 hours.
HHS has been forced to open emergency makeshift facilities, including one in Pecos, Texas that was initially expected to accommodate 500 children.
But the facility, once used to house oil workers, could be expanded to house as many as 2,000 of the unaccompanied children, CBS said.