U.S. plans to house unaccompanied child migrants in Texas warehouse

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 3:38am

The federal General Services Administration plans to convert a warehouse in McAllen, Texas, into a processing center for unaccompanied children who try to enter the United States, according to a building permit issued by that city.

The building permit says the 55,702-square-foot building will be run by the U.S. Border Patrol and serve as a facility for the "temporary holding" of up to 1,000 children. The warehouse is about three miles from the Mexican border.

U.S. authorities estimate 60,000 to 80,000 children from Central America will arrive this year in the United States without a parent or guardian. Many of them left their native countries to flee violence, reunite with relatives or attempt to improve their lives and those of their families.

The problem of unaccompanied children became a hot button issue after images appeared this spring showing them packed into detention centers in Arizona.

A floor plan of the McAllen facility shows the building divided into four pods. Each pod contains five holding cells with 252 detainees each.

Another floor plan shows a new chain-link fence around the perimeter of the property, temporary shower and laundry units, a play area, food service areas and an isolation area.

Each pod contains an activity space with a raised agent observation station. The children would use portable toilets with hand-washing stations. Detainees would be separated by gender and further separated by age.

If it comes to fruition, the McAllen facility won't be the only one to house detained children. The Naval Base Ventura County, which is outside Los Angeles, recently opened its doors to hundreds of children mainly from from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Children also are being housed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The GSA has a 12-month lease. The building plans don't have a projected completion date.

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