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Border Patrol builds tent complex in Yuma to hold families crossing border

Homeland Security officials will begin placing families seeking asylum in a newly constructed "temporary facility" at the Border Patrol station in Yuma on Friday night, as the agency struggles to manage an increasing number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and turning themselves over to agents in the area. 

Yuma Sector Border Patrol offered tours of the complex Friday to non-governmental organizations, a few media outlets, and "local stakeholders," before opening the facility, which will hold up to 500 people in Border Patrol custody before they are transferred to either U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, said Meredith Mingledorff, a CBP spokeswoman. 

On May 22, Yuma Sector officials said that they had apprehended more than 50,000 people, double the number of people apprehended a year earlier, and that the sector had spent more than $1 million in "humanitarian costs" for the care of people traveling as families with children, or children traveling without parents or guardians. 

In early May, Yuma Sector officials said they were facing up to 350 people per day, including several large groups of up to 140 people who crossed into the U.S. through the remote desert east of San Luis, Arizona. 

Unlike the surplus canvas military tents that the agency has set up at Border Patrol stations in El Paso, the tents in Yuma are "weatherproof and climate-controlled," Mingledorff said. 

The temporary facility was built in Yuma because the number of families coming into the Yuma Sector, which straddles the Colorado River basin, and extends into California and Arizona to the Yuma-Pima County line in Arizona, has nearly quadrupled this year compared to the same time period a year earlier. 

From October 1 to May 30, 2019, more than 42,000 families with children have crossed into the U.S. in the Yuma Sector, making the Yuma Sector the third busiest sector, falling behind the El Paso and Rio Grande sectors, both in Texas. 

About 10,000 people in families have turned themselves over to agents in the adjacent Tucson Sector, which covers the rest of Arizona. 

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In the busiest sector in the nation along the Rio Grande river, agents have taken into custody nearly 136,000 people. 

Mingledorff said the facility was set up in a "response to the strain on resources and facilities" due to "unprecedented numbers of family units" crossing the border.

Construction for the facility began on June 15 under a $15 million contract, Mingledorff said. Along with the "temporary, soft-sided facility," the contractor will provide "showers, toilets and sinks" as well as "laundry trailers, kitchen equipment, and personal property storage boxes."

Temporary facilities like this one were previously opened in Donna and El Paso, Texas to help with the overflow of migrants, said Mingledorff, and they "successfully addressed the challenges of providing care for family units in custody." 

While Border Patrol is setting up tent facilities to hold migrant families, a Homeland Security official said that the agency was also considering constructing temporary courts in the Yuma and Nogales-areas to process credible fear and asylum claims. 

Two weeks ago the agency also floated a plan to have CBP officials complete credible fear interviews, a first-step process for asylum seekers before they are allowed into the country while their asylum claims move through the immigration court system, however, that plan was widely panned by immigration lawyers and advocates. 

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Jun 28, 2019, 7:43 pm
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Sheriff Joe must be so proud. We should make all the immigrants wear pink underwear in the 115 to 125 degree heat Yuma will experience in the next few weeks.

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Jerry Glaser/CBP

Construction crews complete a temporary housing facility June 26, 2019 in Yuma, Ariz., as part of an ongoing response to the current border security and humanitarian crisis along the Southwest border.

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