TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — We had a chance to get a look at a new facility where Border patrol is preparing to house migrants---most of them children---in a new site near the airport.
A surge in illegal immigration across the border has led to a surge in demand for where to house those immigrants. Border Patrol managed to get a new facility put up in a space of 20 days.
John Modlin, Border Patrol’s acting chief for the Tucson Sector says children crossing the border without their families is up a hundred percent compared to last year. That’s led to places like the one just put up--what Border Patrol calls a soft sided facility---a metal frame with plastic walls similar to structures the military uses for remote bases.
The full facility can house about five hundred people but Border Patrol says it plans to keep it to 200 to 250 because of COVID concerns. There’s a basic medical clinic. Before migrants arrive Border Patrol agents will have asked them if they have symptoms of COVID and looked for signs of any illness.
They will sleep in these areas, separated by age and gender but Border Patrol Agent Baradon King says arrangements can be made to keep relatives together.
“If we found ourselves in a position where we had a male and a female and they were both siblings we would put them in a different place. It might be a different pod, in a single cell without any others in that specific cell. We also have the option of moving them to one of our eight stations as well.”
Border Patrol says children can move about, and go to a play area. Private contractors will watch over the children to free Border Patrol Agents for more typical duties. Agents say the goal is to take no more than three days to move people from the facility to other parts of the system. Some may go to longer term facilities, some to host families, some to deportation.
Juanita Molina of Border Action Network says this facility seems better than others she’s seen and she sees it as a reflection of how migration has changed.
“Before when I first started doing border work over 15 years ago, we saw a wide variety of people but mostly adult males who were coming through, and the system was completely prepared for adult males, but it is not prepared for adults with children, or with children that are unaccompanied.”
And while this place is meant to be temporary, Molina would not be surprised to see it operating years from now.