Migrant Child Detention Facility at 1600 Percent Capacity amid Influx

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Young migrants wait inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention centre for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by the Customs and Border Protection, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Dario Lopez-Mills/Pool via Reuters)

An overcrowded detention center for unaccompanied migrant children in Donna, Texas, is occupied at over 1,600 percent capacity, according to multiple reports.

Journalists were permitted into the facility for the first time on Tuesday, with pictures showing overcrowded “pods” where migrant children were held. The entire facility was designed to hold 250 migrants but currently holds over 4,100, of whom 3,400 are unaccompanied minors.

One photograph showed a “pod” designed to hold 32 migrant children currently occupied by 615 children. The Biden administration allowed journalists to visit the Donna, Texas, facility for the first time on Tuesday, after initially restricting information that Border Patrol officials were allowed to share with the media.

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The facility is supposed to cost $6 million per month for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate. However, because of overcrowding CBP is spending $16 million per month on operating costs, according to CBS.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz told reporters on Monday that some families of migrants are engaging in “self-separation” after being refused entry into the U.S. This means that families that are expelled to Mexico will send children back across the border alone, in hopes that the children will be able to receive asylum.

The influx of migrant children crossing the border has caused a backlog between the U.S. agencies tasked with housing them. Migrant children are placed in facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services after processing, but because HHS is struggling to find beds, many children are stuck waiting in Border Patrol facilities.

The Biden administration believes that at least 16,000 migrant children will be apprehended by Border Patrol agents by the end of March, according to projections obtained by Axios. That would break the previous record of detentions of migrant children set in May 2019, when 11,475 were apprehended.

Additionally, the projections indicate that over 20,000 migrant children could attempt to cross into the U.S. in every month from April through September of 2021.

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