New tent facilities to be built in South Texas to house migrants

Border Report

Construction crews are seen from a nearby highway on Monday, July 15, 2019, working on the expansion of a tent facility in Donna, Texas. The three large tents had the ability to house 1,200 migrants but were closed in 2020. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are planning to build more soft-sided tent facilities in the South Texas cities of Donna and Laredo to house an anticipated influx of migrant youth crossing the Southwest border.

CBP officials on Wednesday afternoon told Border Report that “CBP is moving forward with plans for the mobilization of soft-side facilities (SSF) in Donna, Texas. A lease with the city of  Donna was awarded on January 15, 2021 and the notice to proceed was signed on January 19, 2021. Construction of the SSF should be completed in approximately 30 days.”

The facilities are to house an increase in unaccompanied migrant children — known as UACs for “unaccompanied alien children” according to government lingo.

“Since April, CBP has seen a steady increase of UACs from the Western Hemisphere due to the worsening economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, CBP is constructing temporary soft-side facilities in Donna,” the CBP statement said.

But the new Donna facilities will not be located at the same spot near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge where three tents were built in 2019 to house an overflow of migrants. Those tents had the capacity to hold 1,200 migrants and were demobilized last year. The tents were air-conditioned and equipped with showers and medical facilities. The original tents built in Donna, plus tents erected by CBP in West Texas near Tornillo, cost an estimated $40 million, according to The New York Times.

A CBP document, which was heavily redacted, did not indicate the cost of the new tent facilities but did place a price tag of $18.2 million as a three-month base price, not including additional options.

It is unclear what additional space and safety measures will need to be taken to house hundreds of migrants during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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