The Biden administration is preparing to open a new tent facility in Texas to hold migrants crossing the border, as officials scramble to deal with the combination of a surge in numbers and the challenges of COVID-19.
The facility is being opened in Eagle Pass, Texas, in the Del Rio sector, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Fox News. The soft-sided facility is being set up in addition to a similar 185,000-square-foot site in Donna, Texas, that was opened at the beginning of the month.
The facilities, run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are different from a center in Carrizo Springs, which was reactivated to deal solely with unaccompanied children (UACs) and is run by Health and Human Services (HHS).
In a statement, CBP said it was building the facility to “help accommodate migrants in our custody.”
“There have always been fluctuations in the number of individuals we encounter at the border, and we continue to adapt accordingly,” the statement said. “Since April 2020, CBP has seen an increase in border encounters from the Western Hemisphere due to worsening economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters impacting the area.”
“Based on past experience, evaluation of operational requirements, and challenges due to COVID-19 space restrictions, we need additional processing facilities when we see rising numbers of encounters,” it said “As we work to build and improve permanent facilities for the safe and orderly processing of individuals at the border, temporary soft-sided facilities are sometimes necessary to meet operational needs that may arise due to rising encounters, particularly under challenging circumstances.”
The Washington Post, which first reported on the new facility, reported that officials are also looking into opening further facilities in Arizona, but plans are less advanced.
There has been an increase in the number of migrants moving to the border in recent weeks, coming amid a number of sweeping changes to Trump-era immigration and border security policies by the Biden administration.
Retired Texas sheriff warns of illegal immigration spike as Biden reverses Trump policiesVideo
CBP said three factors led to the decision to release illegal immigrant families: an increase of migrant traffic, specifically families from Central America and unaccompanied children; Mexico’s refusal to accept additional families with children under age 12 in areas where migrants camps grow increasingly large, overwhelming the shelter and services; and COVID-19, which has severely reduced Border Patrol detention and transport capacity.
The administration has ended the construction of the wall at the southern border and has started to let in migrants kept in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Additionally, it has sought to place a moratorium on deportations.
While that has been blocked by a district judge in response to a Texas lawsuit, the administration has in the meantime issued guidance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that narrows priorities for arrests and deportations.
The Biden administration is also under pressure from left-wing activists to end Title 42 restrictions that allow for migrants to be quickly returned to their country of last origin due to the coronavirus pandemic. Such restrictions do not apply to unaccompanied children.
However, the administration has not yet indicated that it will do so, and officials in multiple ages have warned migrants that they should not flock to the border.
“In response to public health challenges and pursuant to CDC authority, individuals apprehended at the border continue to be denied entry and are returned,” an ICE spokesperson told Fox on Thursday. “Their return is effected from both CBP and ICE facilities.”
“This is not the time to come to the U.S. southwest border and attempt to enter the United States,” the spokesperson said. “COVID-related travel restrictions remain in place and will be enforced. It will take time to rebuild our asylum process.”
Republicans have been sounding the alarm for weeks about a coming crisis at the border, accusing Biden of restoring the “pull factors” that encourage migrants to come north and weakening the systems set up by the Trump administration to deal with the 2019 border crisis.
Multiple House Republicans accused the administration this week of creating a humanitarian crisis at the border by adopting a radical agenda.
“The far left’s insistence on undermining American sovereignty by erasing our nation’s borders is dangerous under normal circumstances,” the letter, signed by 19 House Republicans led by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said. “Your administration’s adoption of the far left’s immigration agenda is creating a new humanitarian crisis at the border by attracting droves of men, women and children.”