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New photos of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas reveal severe overcrowding in the makeshift shelter as the Biden administration struggles to handle a growing crisis at the border.
Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) shared a series of photos of the soft-sided facility with Axios, telling the outlet that while each of the eight “pods” there has a 260-person occupancy, one pod held more than 400 unaccompanied male minors as of Sunday.
Cuellar, who recently visited a shelter for children but did not tour that specific facility nor capture the photos himself, called them “terrible conditions for the children.” He called for the children to be moved more quickly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Border Patrol agents are “doing the best they can under the circumstances” but are “not equipped to care for kids” and “need help from the administration,” he said.
The photos offer a rare look at the deteriorating situation at the border, as the Biden administration has restricted media coverage at migrant housing facilities. CBP had 10,000 migrants in custody as of Saturday. Unaccompanied minors accounted for nearly half of those in custody. Thousands of migrants have been waiting for more than three days in border patrol facilities, according to the report.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week called the situation at the border “difficult” and said the administration is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”
Cuellar said the U.S. has to “stop kids and families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to come to the United States.”
“We have to work with Mexico and Central American countries to have them apply for asylum in their countries,” he said.
Mayorkas on Sunday underscored the Biden administration’s messaging to migrants that the southern border is closed, though he noted that it would not expel “vulnerable children.”
“Our message has been straightforward and simple and it’s true: The border is closed,” he said. “We are expelling families, we are expelling single adults and we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young vulnerable children.”
Mayorkas said that though the administration has warned migrants against seeking entry to the U.S. that border officials “will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children.”
He also told CNN on Sunday that “a Border Patrol station is no place for a child” and the administration is “working around the clock to move these children out of the Border Patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”