The federal government is converting another convention center into a shelter for illegal immigrants amid a border surge that has shown no sign of slowing down.
Health Secretary Xavier Becerra requested help from the city of San Diego to house some of the unaccompanied minors who have been crossing into the United States from Mexico, Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher, both Democrats, said in a joint statement.
The officials agreed over the weekend to open the San Diego Convention Center to the federal government for use as a temporary shelter.
“The city and county will support this federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety,” Gloria and Fletcher said. “We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the details for preparing to receive these young people and provide them with care, compassion, and a safe space to transition while they are reunited with families or sponsors.”
No information was given as to how many children would be held, when they would start arriving, and which part of the border they would be coming from.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told The Epoch Times via email that the convention center will initially be able to accommodate up to 1,400 children.
Describing the center as an emergency intake site, the location is intended for use as a temporary measure, officials said.
City officials said the site can be used for as long as three months, with each minor staying there around 30 days. The children will be as old as age 17.
Minors will be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers, federal officials said.
Becerra, who was confirmed by the Senate last week and previously served as California’s attorney general, said in a statement that, “Every child in our care deserves a safe place to rest and to know their well-being is addressed.”
“The County and City of San Diego has generously offered to partner with the Department as we abide by the law to provide unaccompanied children with food, sanitation and shelter,” he said. “Our task is to protect the health and safety of unaccompanied children, who are under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while they go through their immigration proceedings.”
The United States is dealing with a surge in illegal immigrants and has opened or reopened at least four facilities in the past week to hold unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
An agreement was reached earlier this month to house young male migrants in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.
Illegal border crossings breached 100,000 in February, President Joe Biden’s first full month in office. The number of unaccompanied minors apprehended by border agents jumped from 5,694 in January to nearly 9,300 the following month.
The administration stopped using Title 42 emergency powers amid the COVID-19 pandemic to expel minors, arguing it is not humane to do so. Critics say that decision, as well as confusing messaging from administration officials, has led to the surge.
Leaked photographs on Monday showed children sleeping on floors of a tent holding facility in Texas, with a single pod holding more than 400 unaccompanied male minors.
Health officials told The Epoch Times via email on Tuesday that they were caring for approximately 11,350 children. Another 3,500 were in Border Patrol custody as of last week.
Border officials told reporters in a call last week that they had over 14,000 minors in custody, news outlets reported.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the photographs highlighted how Border Patrol facilities “are not places for children.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.