A dormitory used to house children who illegally crossed the border from Central and South America without adults at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas on June 2, 2014.

US to wind down makeshift shelters for migrant kids

Starting as soon as the end of this week, the U.S. will begin winding down operations at three emergency shelters housing thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed the southwestern border.

Administration officials have said that the rate of undocumented minors caught crossing into the U.S. – totaling more than 57,000 children since October – has slowed in recent months. While it is unclear whether the drop in border crossings is due to seasonal factors or efforts to deter migration, the U.S. plans to shutter the three makeshift shelters built to house and process the children earlier this summer.

The Department of Health and Human services will first begin closing its Oklahoma facility at Fort Sill as early as Friday, according to spokesperson Kenneth Wolfe. Over the next two-to-eight weeks, the department will shutter facilities in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme as well.

The three facilities combined have housed roughly 7,700 children since operations began at those makeshift facilities in late May and early June, Wolfe said in a statement Monday. Traditionally, children housed in the temporary shelters remain in HHS custody for a little over a month before they are transferred out for the next leg of their journey.

Administration officials have warned that funding to address the situation at the border is at risk of running dry after Congress failed to agree on legislation to infuse the immigration system with emergency funding before lawmakers left Capitol Hill for a five-week recess.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has cautioned that money for immigration enforcement and border security is slated to run out by mid-August and mid-September respectively.

President Obama initially requested $3.7 billion from Congress to bolster Border Patrol efforts and dispatch immigration judges and lawyers to process the children. House Republicans instead last week passed a $694 million measure – far below the president’s asking price – tied to a separate vote to undercut an existing program that benefits undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. A separate bill worth $2.7 billion ultimately failed the Senate as well, leaving no chance that legislation would reach the president’s desk before the start of the August recess.

Obama last week said the congressional inaction leaves him no choice but to act on his own through executive orders. 

“They’re not even trying to actually solve the problem,” Obama said of House Republicans on Friday. “While they’re out on vacation I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress.”