DONNA - Over the last 13 days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has constructed a soft-sided facility to help with the over flow of illegal aliens in the sector.
The facility is 40,000 square feet and climate controlled. The site near the Donna International Bridge will have four detention pods which are approximately 4,000 square feet. Like the processing center at the Ursula location, there will be an intake area and processing area that will help keep processing time within the standard 72 hours.
The services provided will be medical, childcare and nutrition for each of the detainees.
“This is really an extension of the Ursula facility,” Executive Officer, Operational Programs Carmen Qualia said. “This facility is to help augment the large numbers of families and unaccompanied children.”
There has been a 240 percent increase on family units arriving from last year. The average number of apprehensions is 1,200 a day. The facility will hold up to 500 individuals.
Qualia said the facility might hold unaccompanied children, family units. The Border Patrol has the capability to do additional processing, should advanced medical care be needed, detainees would be taken into the community.
The facility has the capability to be flexed to more than 500 people but at this time that is not needed.
“Everything is dependent on what is happening operationally in the field,” Qualia said.
The facility will not have chain-link fencing however there will four-foot high partitioning because the Border Patrol still has detention policies they have to follow.
Between the Donna and El Paso facility, the operational cost is $36 million along with construction cost is for four months. The contractual services are an extension to the existing services within the RGV Sector.
Qualia hopes the construction of the temporary facility will be enough for the overwhelming amount of people being apprehended everyday.
“We don't know what we don't know,” she said. “We have seen, as I said, a 240 percent increase with the family units. It is definitely an exploitation of families, it's a difficult journey for them and we would like to see the flow (of people) to slow down and stop altogether.”
The HUMANE Act
On Capitol Hill Texas lawmakers Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) announced the introduction of the HUMANE act, a bill designed to help solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the southern border by reforming current laws dealing with alien unaccompanied children and migrants taken into custody.
The bill will update existing laws to ensure family unity, while streamlining processing procedures. It will also boost the number of CBP officers and modernize ports of entry to increase the capacity for CBP to process migrants seeking asylum.
“As the number of heartbreaking stories continue to grow, so do the number of apprehensions overwhelming understaffed law enforcement,” Cornyn said.
With border apprehensions scheduled to increase in the late spring and early summer, Cornyn and Cuellar saw it critical to take action on the situation by reforming the law regarding unaccompanied children and migrants in custody.
He said the bill will allocate more resources to better position the influx the Department of Homeland Security has to handle while enhance the experience for individuals in DHS custody.
“I believe every person should have due process and be treated humanely in immigration matters,” Cuellar said.