A Texas immigrant detention center is seeking to increase the 1,200 beds it has for unaccompanied minors to a total of 3,800 beds not because of family separation, but instead, an increase of unaccompanied immigrant children, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The need for the continuation of the operation at Tornillo [Texas] is based on the number of unaccompanied alien children in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR] at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, who crossed the border alone without their parent or legal guardian,” Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director for the Office of Communications at HHS, said to TheDCNF. “‘Family separations’ resulting from the zero-tolerance policy ended on June 20, 2018 and are not driving this need.”
He added that 1,400 of the beds will be on reserve status.
The Trump administration enacted the zero-tolerance policy April 6 in an effort to stifle illegal immigration. In response to stopping family separation, President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 to allow officials to detain illegal immigrant families together.
More than 12,800 children are in DHS’s unaccompanied alien children program, according to Wolfe.
The children are given to ORR for care after the children are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The shelter near the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry must consider child welfare as established by the 1997 Flores Agreement, ORR’s website said. (RELATED: US Resettles Fewer Refugees Than Rest Of The World Combined For The First Time)
The top three countries represented in the unaccompanied children program came from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in fiscal year 2017, according to ORR data. Nearly 70 percent of the youth in the program were between 15 and 17 years old.
The average stay time for children in the program is 57 days, according to the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program Fact Sheet published June 15.
Tornillo faced a Father’s Day protest June 17 due to separated children being detained at the facility, according to the The El Paso Times. The protest, however, occurred after Trump signed the executive order ending family separation.
HHS along with DHS will continue running the Tornillo facility through Dec. 31, Wolfe told TheDCNF.
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