CURATED BY Dara Lind
2014-07-30 16:28:01 -0400
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Because the current system was built for 8,000 kids — not 50,000.
According to Wendy Young of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), an advocacy organization for unaccompanied immigrant children, the current system Congress put in place "was designed for about 6,000 to 8,000 kids a year — not the numbers we're seeing now."
That's born out by this chart from HHS, which compares the number of immigrant children Border Patrol is sending into HHS custody to the number of available beds in HHS facilities.
Right now, the children are being placed in detention facilities, including some makeshift facilities at military bases and a DHS processing center in Nogales, Arizona. Press access to these facilities is extremely rare, but reporters who have been granted access say that even under relatively good conditions, the facilities are still traumatic:
The CBP agents in the building seem to be genuinely compassionate in their interactions with the children. The facility is clean and air-conditioned.
But in essence, it is a juvenile prison camp.
The children, mostly of high-school and junior-high-school age, are housed behind 18-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire...
...most of the children lie motionless on side-by-side mattresses with looks of intense boredom on their faces. Inevitably, given the number of people, it smells of feet and sweat and straw.
The temporary centers are necessary because there's a bottleneck in transferring children to HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement. However, after they're sent to HHS, many more children are being released to relatives— and they're being released much more quickly. A report from the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies says that while 65% of children were released to relatives before the current surge, 90% are released to relatives today. Furthermore, some children are being released as soon as "two or three days" after HHS receives them.
The separate influx of families is also overwhelming Border Patrol — partly because they already have to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children, and partly because they can't immediately turn back or deport any family that says they have a "credible fear" they'll be harmed if they get sent back to their home country.
Until June 20th, the government simply gave those families notices to appear in immigration court and released them. On June 20th, however, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was going to open facilities to detain hundreds of immigrant families, and monitor the ones it wasn't physically detaining. The first families have already been deported from those facilities.
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