Federal Officials Propose Texas Immigration Lockup

AUSTIN (TIP): Federal authorities want to build a new South Texas immigration lockup for families amid an unprecedented surge in the number of youngsters pouring across the U.S. border, a federal official said Thursday, September 11. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is proposing a residential center in the town of Dilley, about 70 miles southwest of San Antonio, agency spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda said. “Structures on the site may be used temporarily to house up to 680 residents while the new facilities are built,” she said.

Pruneda said ICE isn’t discussing further details, including how many adults and children the 50-acre facility would house, how much it would cost or when it might be ready. ICE is working to “finalize contracts with construction and service providers” for the South Texas facility, she said.

The spike in unaccompanied children and families crossing the border has strained federal authorities’ capacity to house those arrested on immigration charges. Many of the immigrants say they are fleeing drug and gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Some are seeking asylum. Others are held in detention while awaiting deportation or placement with relatives already in the U.S. Last month, federal authorities converted an all-male facility in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio, to accept 532 mothers and their children. Another immigration center for families in Pennsylvania and a temporary site in New Mexico have a combined capacity of about 800.

“ICE’s family residential centers are an effective option to maintain family units as they await the outcome of immigration hearings or return to their home countries,” Pruneda said in a statement. “ICE ensures that family detention facilities operate in an open environment that includes play rooms, social workers, medical care, and classrooms with state-certified teachers and bilingual teachers.”

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