1,000 Undocumented and Unaccompanied Minors Sent to Arizona Shelter Following a Surge in Border Crossings

By Julissa Catalan

Photo by: Johnny Hanson / Associated Press

In a government effort to regulate the U.S. border, more than 1,000 unaccompanied Central American children were shipped to a makeshift Arizona shelter after overwhelming the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Obama last week called the surge an “urgent humanitarian situation” and appointed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to handle the response. The children were said to have been sent to this shelter because Border Patrol stations and detention facilities were already above capacity.

Currently, hundreds of minors are stationed at a Nogales, Ariz., warehouse where they are sleeping on plastic boards and sharing four showers.

The majority of the minors are said to be from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

About 120 unaccompanied children arrive each day, according to officials. That number has tripled over the last five years and could soon total 60,000 a year.

The recent increase in border crossings is believed to be a result of the rise in crime in these Central American countries. With 90.4 homicides per 100,000 residents, Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, according to the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. Meanwhile the World Bank reports that 60 percent Honduras’ 8 million people live in poverty.

Per Andrew Wilder, spokesperson for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, 367 minors were transported from the Texas border to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection center in Nogales on Saturday.

Federal officials also reported that 432 unaccompanied children were taken to that same facility on Friday, while 367 more were transported on Sunday.

Brewster has condemned the Obama administration, saying the immigration problem will continue because there is no proper protocol in place for this surge.

“I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama’s administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy, meanwhile neglecting to answer crucial questions our citizens demand and deserve,” Brewer said.

“This is a crisis of the federal government’s creation, and the fact that the border remains unsecure—now apparently intentionally—while this operation continues full-steam ahead is deplorable,” she continued.

The shelter is a temporary way station, where the children are expected to stay no more than 72 hours, receiving medical treatment including vaccinations. FEMA has stepped in to provide additional support including counseling services and recreational activities. Officials, meanwhile, are preparing the temporary station to house up to 1,500 children and have ordered more bedding along with showers, toiletries, laundry facilities and more adequate meals.

Children will then be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement to be housed in a more permanent shelter—where they can stay a maximum of 120 days—until they can be reunited with their parents or a guardian.

A more permanent Arizona facility is planned for Tucson.

The Obama administration has requested $1.4 billion for temporary housing and transportation to be set up at military bases in Ventura, Calif., Fort Sill, Okla., and San Antonio.

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