The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allowing child-migrant detention facilities to operate at 100 percent capacity, despite the threat of coronavirus spread, multiple outlets reported on Friday.
The agency recommended in an internal memo that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement open its facilities at the U.S.–Mexico border to full capacity. According to the memo, the HHS facilities are better-equipped to prevent coronavirus spread than U.S. Border Patrol holding centers, so it is preferable that migrant children be housed by HHS.
“Additional shelter capacity will minimize the likelihood that children remain in Border Patrol stations longer than necessary, where they are also exposed to COVID-19 transmission risks as well as child welfare concerns associated with such settings,” the memo states. HSS “facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases.”
There are currently 7,700 unaccompanied migrant children in HHS facilities, according to CNN, while the department has 13,650 beds available. The Biden administration is expecting to see a record number of migrant children cross the border in the coming weeks, and the administration has projected it will need roughly 20,000 beds to contend with the influx, Axios reported on Tuesday.
The expansion in available space at shelters comes as the Biden administration grapples with a major surge in illegal immigration at the Southern border. The surge can be attributed in part to the effects of two November hurricanes in Central America, as well as ongoing upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, some migrants have cited what they perceive as the Biden administration’s looser immigration policies in making their decision to cross the border.