Less than a month after its opening, the emergency shelter for migrant children in Carrizo Springs is reportedly shutting down.
Vice News first reported on its closure – and the potential that it could continue operating without children – on Tuesday. It’s unclear what the U.S. Department of Health and Human services plans to do; a spokesperson for the agency declined to offer additional details.
“It was too much, too late,” Kevin Dinnin, head of the San Antonio-based nonprofit BCFS Health and Human Services, which operates the facility, told Vice News. “By this weekend, we should have discharged all the children.”
The 1,300-bed facility opened June 30 to alleviate the dangerous overcrowding, prolonged detention, and filthy conditions at some Border Patrol facilities where children were being held because there was not enough space for them in permanent shelters. HHS officials offered tours of the facility to dozens of journalists and politicians earlier this month, when around 200 teenagers were housed there per day.
But the number of unaccompanied migrant children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped recently, falling from 11,489 in May to 7,378 in June, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. And the 35 state-licensed shelters for migrant children reported housing 4,937 children as of July 18, a large decrease from the more than 8,000 they held at the beginning of the year.
HHS signed a five-year, $8.8 million lease for the 27-acre complex, which had formerly served as housing for oilfield workers. BCFS was awarded a contract for up to $308 million through January 2020 to house and care for around 1,300 children.
Dinnin told The Washington Post that surge shelters like Carrizo Springs are expensive to run – they cost roughly $750 to $800 per child per day – because of their large size and the speed with which they need to be fully functioning. The property is dotted with dormitories, trailers, and tents and also has its own fire department and emergency medical team.