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Acting DHS Chief Tours Border As CBP Plans Tent Cities For Migrants

David Martin Davies | Texas Public Radio
TPR News

The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security continued his tour of immigration facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday.

Kevin McAleenan's schedule this week included conferences with law enforcement, border agents and politicians.

Homeland Security said he toured key crossing points and staging areas to assess the challenges law enforcement faces in the region, particularly the high numbers of family units and unaccompanied children.

On Wednesday, McAleenan toured the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, where the organization assists migrants released from custody.

Afterwards, he held a press conference during which he called on Congress to provide DHS with additional resources to address the recent migrant surge.

He also discussed a new report from the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“The committee recommended enhance processing and care for arriving families and children by establishing temporary regional processing centers,” he said.

McAleenan spent time with local mayors and agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The visit came as CBP officials confirmed Tuesday they planned tent-like facilities in two Texas border towns that can hold up to 500 people to help with migrant capacity issues.

A CBP spokesperson said the agency needed additional processing and detention space in El Paso and Donna.

Credit Reynaldo Leanos Jr. | Texas Public Radio
Law enforcement and political officials speak to the media on Wednesday.

According to an online federal contracting notice, the government plans to build "soft-sided facilities," or tent-like structures, near Donna’s Port of Entry in the Rio Grande Valley and near a Border Patrol Station in El Paso. The structures will hold unaccompanied children and family units.

CBP’s statement said the weatherproof structures will provide areas for eating, sleeping and recreation. It added that the facilities are temporary.

The statement said that "CBP is committed to finding solutions that address the current border security and humanitarian crisis at the southwest border in a way that safeguards those in our custody in a humane and dignified manner."

The agency wants the facilities up and running by April 30.

McAleenan told reporters on Wednesday that within the last six months, his department discovered more than 3,000 families presenting as joint units that were later discovered to be fraudulent. He added that agents are cracking down on what he called child recycling rings.

He explained: “The same child is brought across the border with an adult multiple times to try and gain that release that family units are required under court order.”

The acting secretary's visit occurred as the CBP reported encountering more than 103,000 migrants at the border in March. It said those numbers haven’t been seen since 2014, when there was a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America.

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at reynaldo@tpr.org and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos