The U.S. government announced on August 4 that it would be closing three separate emergency shelters designed to house the rapid influx of unaccompanied migrant children arriving from Central America. The shelters, run by Health and Human Services (HHS) and located on military bases, are planning on closing due to waning numbers of children crossing the border and an increasing capacity at other, more permanent shelters.
One shelter at Fort Still in Oklahoma closed on August 8, with the other two shelters located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas and Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme, California set to close in the next two to eight weeks.
The migrant children were being held at the bases thanks to a 2008 law dictating that any unaccompanied children from countries not bordering the U.S. must be handed over to HHS within 72 hours of being apprehended. It has been estimated that around 7,700 children had been housed at the three bases, with the average stay lasting 35 days.
Most of the children are originally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but have come from other Central American countries. The majority of those living at the shelters have found themselves fleeing their home countries due to an increased instability in the region. This lack of safety is largely due to a combination of increased gang violence and deeply entrenched levels of extreme poverty. However, it is impossible to attribute one particular cause to the massive increase in children attempting to enter the U.S.
Unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S. border hit a peak during June when it was estimated that as many as 2,000 children were crossing per week, but the amount has since tapered off. The last estimate was around 500 per week in Mid-July. An estimate from the Obama administration say that a total amount of child immigrants could hit 90,000 by September.
– Andre Gobbo