U.S. Customs and Border Protection this week awarded a contract for the construction of a tent holding facility for families and unaccompanied minors at the Donna port of entry.
CBP awarded the $36.9 million contract Thursday to New York-based Deployed Resources LLC. According to a statement released by CBP Friday, the 500-person facility may be operational as soon as May 1 and will remain operational for at least four months.
The contract also allows the government to extend operations through the end of December via four distinct one-month extension options.
A second 500-person “soft-sided” tent facility will also be constructed in El Paso.
CBP officials say the temporary holding facilities are necessary due to an increasing influx of families and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.
“The flow has changed dramatically and the facilities, resources and the legal authorities we have are not able to address the challenges we are seeing,” said Kevin A. McAleenan, acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during a news conference along the border fence in Hidalgo on Wednesday.
The tent facilities are meant to serve as temporary holding facilities while the migrants await transfer to the custody of either U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Health and Human Services.
The tent facility will occupy just under 5 acres of land near the Donna port of entry. The compound will be surrounded by a 7-foot tall perimeter fence topped with 3 feet of barbed wire, according to a document detailing the project’s scope of work.
Inside the perimeter, the structure will contain separate areas for processing and holding migrants.
The holding area will include up to four sections able to house families, as well as unaccompanied children separated by gender. The size of each section will depend on how many families versus unaccompanied children are being held.
Each section will be open-concept, with a centrally-located wooden guard station raised 7 feet off the ground and capable of accommodating two guards, the document reads.
The tent will also contain a medical area equipped with privacy screens, a small refrigerator, benches and chemical toilets.
The holding portion of the facility will be equipped with 40 showers, 40 chemical toilets and 40 stacked washers and dryers. The kitchen will have four refrigerators and microwave ovens.
Each migrant will be afforded 60 square feet of personal space — a figure that includes the space required for bed mats, toilets, showers and even the space needed for “staff supervision space.”
The entire compound will be monitored by no fewer than 40 closed-circuit high definition cameras and patrolled by 14 unarmed guards per shift, along with CBP personnel.
Approximately 3,000-square-feet of fenced-in outdoor space will serve as an exercise area.
CBP has housed migrants in tent facilities before — in both 2014 and 2015.
Federal officials insisted Wednesday that the number of migrants currently crossing the border in search of asylum represent an unprecedented humanitarian and security “crisis.” However, according to data released by Border Patrol, the current influx is still well below previous years. For example, Border Patrol reported a total of 396,579 apprehensions last year, compared to 876,704 in 2007 and more than 1.5 million in 1999.