US: Big drop in migrant kids at largest emergency shelter

Jun 28, 2021, 9:45 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm
FILE - In this May 11, 2021, file photo, three young migrants hold hands as they run in the rain at...

FILE - In this May 11, 2021, file photo, three young migrants hold hands as they run in the rain at an intake area after turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Roma, Texas. The Biden administration says the number of unaccompanied migrant children housed at its largest emergency shelter has dropped by more than 40% since mid-June. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The number of migrant children housed at the Biden administration’s largest emergency shelter for those who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone has dropped by more than 40% since mid-June, a top U.S. official said Monday, touting progress at the facility that has been criticized by child welfare advocates.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters that 790 boys were housed at Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas, and the last girl left Monday. All the girls were reunited either with relatives in the U.S. or a sponsor such as a family friend or sent to licensed facilities, which have a higher standard of care, according to the agency responsible for caring for migrant children.

In mid-June, the administration reported about 2,000 boys and girls were at the Fort Bliss facility amid child welfare advocates’ concerns about inadequate conditions. A high of 4,800 children were housed there in May.

Becerra said his agency was evaluating whether it can close some of the emergency shelters that the government opened in the spring as record numbers of unaccompanied children crossed the border. He declined to say whether Fort Bliss would be among them.

“Because we’ve been successful in managing the flow, we are prepared to begin the demobilization of several of our emergency intake sites,” Becerra said.

He made his second visit to Fort Bliss since it opened in March and said more services and staffing have been added, including case managers who have helped get children released to relatives in the U.S. or placed in licensed facilities more quickly.

In transcripts of interviews done by attorneys and filed in federal court in Los Angeles last week, migrant children described their desperation to get out of Fort Bliss and the other large shelters set up by the Biden administration.

The children were interviewed from March to June by attorneys monitoring a longstanding settlement governing custody conditions for migrant children.

Some of the children said they did not know if anyone was working to reunite them with their families, giving them anxiety. Others did not have enough access to a mental health counselor, had trouble sleeping because lights were kept on at night and were avoiding meals because the food smelled foul. Several said they spent their days sleeping and had been in the facilities, like Fort Bliss, for more than a month.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited El Paso on Friday, and her spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, told reporters that President Joe Biden has instructed Becerra to “do a thorough investigation” and report back about the conditions in the tent camp at Fort Bliss, which advocates have called particularly troubling.

“The administration is taking this very seriously. Extremely seriously,” Sanders said.

A White House official said later Friday that conditions have improved, adding that Biden did not order a formal investigation request and that the agency was already looking into the facility.

Shaw Drake, staff attorney and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, applauded the reduction in the number of children housed at Fort Bliss but questioned why it has taken this long to see real progress in releasing kids from the government’s unlicensed shelters.

Drake praised the Biden administration for helping get children out of overcrowded holding facilities for adult migrants by opening more than dozen emergency shelters quickly. But he said “immediately after that, the focus should have been to reunify children with sponsors, and it seemed like that languished and left kids in places like Fort Bliss far too long.”

A rise in the number of migrant children crossing the southwest border alone has challenged the Biden administration. The Department of Health and Human Services has more than 14,200 migrant children in its care, down from 22,000 two months ago.

Becerra said more children are in licensed shelters now than unlicensed facilities, a reversal from a government report in May. He said officials are working to get more beds made available at licensed facilities.

“We have continued to expand our capacity, and as a result, we’re able to discharge more of these children into the hands of a responsible, vetted custodian, which then frees up a bed for another child,” he said.

Despite the improvements, Becerra said the shelters are not a solution and urged Congress to fix what he called a broken immigration system.

___

Taxin reported from Orange County, California.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The cargo ship Polarnet arrives to Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit, Turkey, Monday Aug. 8, 2022. ...
Associated Press

Ship carrying grain from Ukraine arrives in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (AP) — The first of the ships to leave Ukraine under a deal to unblock grain supplies amid the threat of a global food crisis arrived at its destination in Turkey on Monday. The Turkey-flagged Polarnet docked at Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit after setting off from Chornomorsk on Aug. 5 laden […]
3 hours ago
A person walks by a SoftBank shop on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Tokyo. Japanese technology company So...
Associated Press

Japan tech giant SoftBank posts $23 billion quarterly loss

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese technology company SoftBank Group posted a $23.4 billion loss in the April-June quarter as the value of its investments sank amid global worries about inflation and interest rates. SoftBank Group Corp.’s loss of 3.16 trillion yen was a reversal from its 762 billion yen profit in the same quarter a year […]
3 hours ago
Exterior damage from a fire is seen at the Mountain B pub in the Sattahip district of Chonburi prov...
Associated Press

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

BANGKOK (AP) — The owner of a music pub in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than three dozen others was released on bail when he was brought to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him. Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

Productivity, consumer prices, Cardinal Health earns

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: ECONOMIC BELLWETHER Economists project that U.S. worker productivity fell in the April-June period for the second consecutive quarter. The Labor Department is expected to report Tuesday that nonfarm labor productivity fell in the second quarter at an annual rate of […]
3 hours ago
Liudmila Samsonova, of Russia, poses with the trophy after she won the final at the Citi Open tenni...
Associated Press

Russian tennis players collect 3 titles at US Open tuneups

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was quite a week for Russia’s professional tennis players — four tournaments, three titles. One of them, Liudmila Samsonova, thinks it might not be merely a coincidence that this recent run of success for her, Daria Kasatkina and Daniil Medvedev comes shortly after they were banned from competing at Wimbledon because […]
1 day ago
Lyubov Mahlii, 76, pulls a crate of water bottles up the stairs to her fifth floor apartment after ...
Associated Press

As summer wanes, water crisis looms for east Ukrainian city

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine (AP) — The echo of artillery shells thundering in the distance mingles with the din of people gathered around Sloviansk’s public water pumps, piercing the uneasy quiet that smothers the nearly deserted streets of this eastern Ukrainian city. The members of Sloviansk’s dwindling population only emerge — a few minutes at a time […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
US: Big drop in migrant kids at largest emergency shelter