MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti) - The US Health and Human Services department announced plans to close three emergency child immigration centers created to shelter unaccompanied children crossing America’s southern border due to a recent decline in border crossings.
"To prudently manage its resources, HHS's Administration for Children and Families will be suspending these temporary facilities," the Health and Human Services department said in a statement published Monday. "We are able to take this step because we have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities. At the same time, we have seen a decrease in the number of children crossing the southwest border.”
HHS stated an emergency shelter established at Fort Sill, Oklahoma could be closed as soon as this Friday. The other two shelters expected to close are located in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme. According to agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe, the closings are expected to take place within the next two to eight weeks.
HHS has reported falling levels of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, with the number falling from 2,000 per week in June to approximately 500 by mid-July. Administration officials commented that border crossings typically drop during the hottest summer months, which suggests the decline could be temporary.
“It is a priority for us to make sure that it is both clear to people in the country that we will remove children,” A White House Official said. “And that we in fact do that much more swiftly and efficiently than we are doing now.”
A law passed in 2008 requires that unaccompanied children be turned over to HHS within 72 hours of apprehension, if they are from countries that do not border the United States. Under US law, the government is responsible for the well-being of the children unless they can be reunited with a relative or sponsor in the United States during their waiting period preceding a deportation hearing in immigration court. The law has proven costly, forcing US President Barack Obama to request Congressional approval for an emergency $3.7 billion spending bill to address the influx of child migrants.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has calculated that the number of children travelling north alone to seek asylum has doubled each year since 2011. The US government estimates 60,000 children will arrive at the border in 2014 in the hopes of being granted asylum. Prior to its August recess, Congress approved two bills providing $694 million in aid for the humanitarian crisis on the border.