Immigration Law

New Texas jail will house 1,600 immigrant youths, won't be subject to child welfare licensing requirements

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Updated: A complex that once housed oil field workers in southwestern Texas will soon become a massive jail that holds up to 1,600 immigrant children who arrive in the United States without their families.

Because the new jail in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will be designated as an “emergency shelter,” it will not be subject to the state’s child welfare licensing requirements, Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told the Associated Press. ABC News also has coverage.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is also considering using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 children, the Associated Press reported. This, coupled with the jail in Carrizo Springs, would make about 3,000 new beds available.

Immigrant children are held in custody while government authorities determine whether they can be released to relatives or family friends, according to the Associated Press.

“It is our legal requirement to take care of these children so that they are not in Border Patrol facilities,” Weber said. “They will have the services that ORR always provides, which is food, shelter and water.”

On Wednesday, the federal government announced that unaccompanied immigrant children living in U.S. shelters will no longer receive English instruction, legal aid and recreational programs that previously were funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Weber told the Washington Post that funding is being eliminated for activities that are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”

The funding cuts come amid budget pressures caused by a dramatic spike in unaccompanied minors at the southern border. In May, Border Patrol agents arrested 11,507 children traveling alone, according to the Associated Press.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is also facing backlash after the death of two immigrant children and lawsuits related to its treatment of teens, the AP reported.

ABA President Bob Carlson issued a statement last week calling the situation “unacceptable.”

“The American Bar Association is deeply disturbed by reports that hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the United States are being held by the U.S. Border Patrol in violation of the law and federal policies,” Carlson’s statement said.

On June 7, Carlson issued another statement.

“The ABA developed and adopted a comprehensive set of standards that should govern the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children, including when they are in U.S. government custody,” he wrote. “The ABA Standards for the Custody, Placement and Care; Legal Representation; and Adjudication of Unaccompanied Alien Children in the United States provides unaccompanied children the right to legal representation and legal information, such as know-your-rights presentations, and also specifically includes a right to education and recreational activities.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “ABA ‘deeply disturbed’ by data showing immigrant minors being held past legal time limit”

ABA Journal: “Over 200 allegations of abuse of migrant children; only 1 federal employee disciplined”

Updated June 10 to included ABA President Bob Carlson’s statements.

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