Tornillo Port of Entry could house unaccompanied immigrant children

Tornillo Port of Entry (Courtesy: KFOX14)

The Tornillo Port of Entry is being considered as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children, according to sources close to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez confirmed to KFOX14 she received a letter briefing her about the children being housed at the port of entry.

"This is not a place that has counselors or therapists or has the adequate ability for food or medical health," said Gonzalez.

The Department of Health and Human services was planning to activate the shelter June 8, according to sources.

However, there are no reports of the children arriving yet.

"We have an influx of undocumented kids in our system. We don't have enough places to house them," said Gonzalez.

"It's not a place that is conducive for the best health and safety of children," said Gonzalez.

The port of entry would be an extra location for the unaccompanied minors to finds shelter while HHS finds a guardian for the child as his or her immigration case proceeds.

In 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the Tornillo-Guadalupe Temporary Holding Center to process family units and unaccompanied children.

The facility is pictured on the CBP website as tents set up in Tornillo with the capacity of 500 children.

A total of 3,136 unaccompanied children were apprehended in the El Paso Sector between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, according to CBP statistics.

The number was a 9 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The largest number of unaccompanied children happened in the Rio Grande Valley with 14,846 apprehensions. Despite the number, the Rio Grande Valley say a 22 percent decrease of unaccompanied children.

The majority of the children come from Guatemala, according to CBP.

KFOX-14 was referred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when asked if they were aware of possibly hosting children at the Tornillo Port of Entry since HHS manages the cases of unaccompanied minors.

HHS sent the following statement:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with the support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has selected Tornillo Land Port of Entry (LPOE) as a temporary shelter location for unaccompanied alien children (UAC) cared for by HHS. HHS will continue to keep local and congressional officials informed during this selection process. HHS is legally required to provide care and shelter for all unaccompanied alien children referred by DHS, and works in close coordination with DHS on the security and safety of the children and community. This effort has no impact on the ability of DHS to conduct its primary missions.
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