New US facility to hold immigrant children already closing

National

In this Tuesday, July 9, 2019, photo, immigrants say the Pledge of Allegiance in a writing class at the U.S. government’s newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Following breakfast, children play soccer and then have classes held in trailers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s new holding facility for migrant youth will close as early as this week, less than one month after it was opened in response to the squalid conditions in which children were being detained by the Border Patrol, according to the nonprofit operating the facility.

The last children at the camp at Carrizo Springs, Texas, are on track to leave by Thursday, said Kevin Dinnin, the CEO of the nonprofit BCFS.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened the facility in late June. An HHS spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.

Dinnin, whose nonprofit was contracted by HHS to operate Carrizo Springs, said his staff was to leave by the end of the week. It’s still unclear whether some of the trailers and supplies brought to the camp will remain on site so that it can be quickly re-opened if it’s needed in the future.

Roughly 400 children were detained at Carrizo Springs in total, Dinnin said. BCFS had a contract that could have run through January and paid $300 million, according to U.S. government public notices. But Dinnin said it made little sense for staff and resources to be tied to a site where they were not needed. Holding children at emergency facilities like Carrizo Springs comes at a huge cost — an estimated $750 to $800 a day.

Making Carrizo Springs ready for children required clearing mold and repairing air conditioning systems at the camp, which formerly housed oilfield workers . BCFS also brought in an infirmary built in a tent and its own ambulances.

Vice News first reported the development.

Reports earlier this year of the squalid conditions in which children were held in some Border Patrol cells — with no beds, inadequate food, and teens caring for younger children among themselves — sparked wide outrage. But by the time HHS opened Carrizo Springs, the huge numbers of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had fallen as they normally do during the summer due to heat.

HHS is also processing children more quickly after rolling back guidelines on fingerprinting and background checks.

Border crossings tend to rise in the fall. Dinnin said he hadn’t been told yet what HHS wanted to do with the site, which the agency leased for three years.

“I do think it’s prudent that they have a plan they can pull off the shelf and effectively and timely execute,” Dinnin said. “That’s just logical for what we’ve seen the last six or seven years.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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