New intake site in Donna expedites migrant children processing

A new expansion at the tent site in Donna serving as an emergency intake site for unaccompanied migrant children will be operational as of Tuesday, according to a news release.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families issued a statement indicating the new site, named the Delphi Emergency Intake Site, would be receiving 375 children.

“While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement has worked to build up its licensed bed capacity, additional capacity is urgently needed to manage the increasing numbers of UC (unaccompanied children) referrals from CBP,” the news release stated.

The Donna site is one of several opened in recent weeks to accommodate the fast-growing number of unaccompanied migrant children entering the country.

Similar emergency intake sites were opened in Texas cities: Dimmit, Pecos, Houston, Carrizo Springs, El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas and Midland. Another was also opened in San Diego, California.

The creation of more space was first reported on March 26 when a senior Border Patrol official made the announcement during a media call, the same day GOP leaders toured the Donna site and reported overcrowded conditions.

“HHS is building a soft sided … facility on that site. So we can transfer some of those children much quicker into their care,” the official said.

Pictures of an overcrowded holding area at the Donna tent site operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection were initially circulated by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and then later by the agency.

Children without parents or legal guardians are entering the country faster than they can be processed by CBP and placed with HHS in ORR facilities.

HHS has over 200 facilities in 22 states, the agency reported.

The statement further indicated the HHS will exhaust “all available options” for the sake of children’s safety. In the meantime, the statement also read that ORR seeks to limit children’s time spent in Border Patrol facilities and provided four measures to accomplish as much.

These measures are as follows:

“(First) Safely increasing capacity in its permanent/licensed network by implementing enhanced CDC COVID-19 mitigation strategies; 2) safely reducing the time it takes to unify UC with sponsors; 3) using Influx Care Facilities with the same standards of care used in its permanent/licensed network; and 4) establishing Emergency Intake Sites to decrease over-crowding in CBP facilities. Simultaneously, ORR is committed to aggressively moving toward the long-term goal of acquiring enough state-licensed beds in our care provider network to reduce the need in the future for Influx Care Facilities or Emergency Intake Sites.”