Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary, visited the temporary migrant shelter at the Long Beach Convention Center on Thursday, May 13, and touted the work there as part of the Biden administration’s broader effort to manage a recent surge of unaccompanied minors seeking to cross the southern border.
“Our federal volunteers and the many staff members here today are working tirelessly to care for the children,” Becerra, California’s former attorney general, said in a statement, “as we move to safely unite them with their parents or legal sponsors.”
Becerra’s visit came as 671 children — mostly girls as young as 5 years old — were being housed at the facility. By Thursday afternoon, 90 kids who had previously been at the shelter had been united with a family member or sponsor, though a spokesman for the facility said that number would likely grow to 102 by the end of the day.
The facility has the capacity to house up to 1,000 kids and is set to cease operations by Aug. 2.
The Long Beach Convention Center was tapped by federal officials earlier this year to be used as a temporary migrant shelter along with several other facilities across the country, mostly in California and Texas, as an influx of children, fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, have made their way to the border without a parent.
Last month, border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors — a 100% increase from February and an all-time monthly high. But data released this week showed that number fell in April to 17,171, indicating that the surge may be ebbing. The numbers for March and April, though, are still far higher than any other month on record.
Becerra, in his statement, acknowledged the challenges of managing the cases of the tens of thousands of kids who have recently entered the U.S. on their own. But he pointed to the progress the administration has made, which he said included doubling the capacity of shelters like the one in Long Beach by adding more than 14,000 beds, reducing the amount of time that children spend from an average of 40 days to 29 days, and deploying more than 1,000 federal volunteers across the country.
“While we have more work to do to meet the influx of arrivals and tackle the challenges this Administration inherited,” he said, “we are making important strides.”
Source: Orange County Register