- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Facing a new surge of illegal immigration, and particularly children, at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration said Tuesday it’s had to open a new tent facility in Texas to handle the increases.

The new Customs and Border Protection facility is going up in Donna, near the southern tip of Texas, where it’s going to be available for use by several Border Patrol stations.

Officially known as “soft-sided” facilities, the tents are used to process illegal immigrants. Photos of the new facility show shelves piled high with blankets, suggesting some migrants will be kept overnight.

The previous administration had opened a similar tent center in Donna in 2019, but closed it in 2020 as the border numbers plummeted after a number of policy changes cut the incentives for migrants to try their luck.

Numbers began to climb at the end of last year, and have soared so far in 2021.

One former official said CBP, the border agency within Homeland Security, is now encountering 300 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) a day — one of the fastest rates ever.

All told, perhaps 4,500 people a day are trying to jump the border, the official said.
CBP blamed factors in Latin America.

“Since April 2020, CBP has seen a steady 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,” the agency said.

Migrants themselves, though, tell agents they believe they’ll have an easier time breaching the border and gaining a foothold under the new administration.

During the 2019 surge, photos of holding facilities with chain-link dividers, erected in the Obama years, spurred accusations that children were being held in “cages.”

The new facilities use clear plastic dividers instead of chain fencing.

Immigrant-rights groups signaled Tuesday they are taking a wait-and-see approach on how the Biden team handles the surge.

Amnesty International USA said “it will take time to move away from the system.”

The group vowed to monitor how things work out.

”While the Biden administration has inherited a system of placing children in CBP temporary facilities we want to see a future where children are free to be with their families and their communities,” said Denise Bell, a migrant rights researcher at Amnesty International. “In the meantime, what children need most is access to education, medical care, legal services, and social services that is coupled with fair and just access to safety.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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