BY NOMAAN MERCHANT | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HOUSTON — The U.S. Border Patrol said Friday that it plans to open a second tent facility to detain migrants in South Texas next to one it opened last week.
In a statement, the agency said the 500-person tent it opened in Donna, Texas, is already beyond capacity. The statement cited the large numbers of migrant parents and children crossing into the United States, many of them asylum seekers from Central America.
Photos released by the Border Patrol show dozens of migrants sitting or lying on the grass outside a small, military-style tent with only Mylar sheets underneath them. Another photo inside a tent shows adults and children huddled underneath the shiny sheets. The agency said it’s also detaining migrants in the secure entryways, or sally ports, of some of its stations.
President Donald Trump’s administration and immigration agencies argue they are facing a crisis. They have called for $4.5 billion in funding and for Congress to change laws that would allow agencies to detain migrant families longer and deport them more quickly.
Immigration advocates have accused the Trump administration of wrongly depicting border crossings as a crisis and have called on the U.S. government not to detain asylum seekers.
Unauthorized border crossings have surged since the start of this year. The Border Patrol said it made 98,977 apprehensions for crossing illegally in April, including 58,474 adults and children traveling together, encountering more than 100,000 people overall.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost part of Texas, agents apprehend about 1,600 people daily. Border Patrol currently has more than 8,000 people detained in the sector, more than double its current capacity including the tent in Donna.
Rodolfo Karisch, chief patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley, said in the statement that the agency’s resources “are beyond a breaking point and has put border security at risk.”
John-Michael Torres, a spokesman for the group La Unión Del Pueblo Entero, said last week when the first tents opened in Donna and El Paso that Trump was “using children and other vulnerable people to manufacture a crisis at the southern border.”
“The president cannot detain away the real humanitarian need of parents seeking safe ground and a future for their children,” Torres said.