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Temporary facility for detained migrants to open in Yuma

PHOENIX – Two weeks after construction began, a temporary facility in an Arizona border town to house detained immigrants is set to open Friday.

Families will be placed at the tent set-up in Yuma beginning in the evening, border officials said.

The migrants’ processing facility shares the site with the Yuma border patrol station. As people are brought in, they will be screened for medical issues and fingerprinted.

“At the same, we’re already feeding them water, food and anything they need,” Deputy Border Patrol Agent Humberto Guerra of the Yuma station told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

“After that, we try to give them showers if possible, laundry if they need it, clothing if they need it, and all the supplies they might to take care of families and young kids.”

The facility, which can house 500 people and has a cooling system, is part of a $15 million contract between the federal government and a private company. It will be open through the end of September with the option to extend the contract for a month at a time.

Most of the detainees are Central Americans and will stay at the facility for three days at a time.

Apprehensions of unaccompanied children in the sector have increased 51% from May 2018 to May 2019.

“But our most dramatic increase has been in the family unit category,” U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jose Garibay of the Yuma Sector told KTAR News on Thursday.

“We’ve seen a 381% increase compared to the same time last year.”

He said last year the number was 8,700; this year it’s a little over 42,000.

Nearly 11,000 families and 6,000 unaccompanied kids have crossed the Yuma sector since October, making it the third-busiest area in the Southwest.

Combined with the high volume of migrants federal authorities were dropping off in the town by the Colorado River, Mayor Douglas Nicholls declared a state of emergency in mid-April.

In March, an overwhelmed U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it would begin releasing detainees in Yuma. The processing centers weren’t designed to hold so many families and unaccompanied children.

“Border Patrol has been dealing with overcapacity in their detention facilities for at least since last fall, if not further back,” Nicholls told KTAR News.

He said the shelter will “take the pressure off of getting people out of custody right away” and into the streets to make room for more incoming.

“That’s what I think will be more positive for the community.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and Peter Samore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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