More Than 3K Migrant Kids Crowded Into Texas Facility

Biden administration finally allows journalists into detention facility for children
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2021 6:25 PM CDT
More Than 3K Migrant Kids Crowded Into Texas Facility
Young unaccompanied migrants, that range in age from 3 to 9, sit inside a play pen at the US Customs and Border Protection facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, Pool)

The Biden administration for the first time Tuesday allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility for migrant children, revealing a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 people, including children and families, were crammed into a space intended for 250 and the youngest were kept in a large play pen with mats on the floor for sleeping. With thousands of children and families arriving at the US-Mexico border in recent weeks and packing facilities, President Biden has been under pressure to bring more transparency to the process. US Customs and Border Protection allowed two journalists from the AP and a crew from CBS to tour the facility on the condition they share their reporting with other outlets as part of a pool arrangement.

More than 4,100 people were being housed on the property in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, Tuesday, 3,400 of them unaccompanied children and the rest people who arrived in families, a mix of parents and children. Most were unaccompanied children processed in tents before being taken to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services and then placed with a family member, relative, or sponsor. The children were being housed by the hundreds in eight "pods" formed by plastic dividers, each about 3,200 square feet in size. Many of the pods had more than 500 children in them, spaced closely together and many of them laying on the ground on mats and foil blankets. Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, said 250 to 300 kids enter daily and far fewer leave.

(Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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