FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesFEMA Leases Dallas Convention Center to House 3,000 Unaccompanied Minors

The federal government has activated FEMA to help meet the needs of the soaring number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S.
March 15, 2021
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has leased the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas to house up to 3,000 unaccompanied minors, according to an update posted by Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch (R-District 2).

According to the update, which Koch said was a public service announcement from the city, the convention center will be used for up to 90 days as a temporary “decompression facility” that will house 15 to 17-year-old boys apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Late yesterday evening we received confirmation that FEMA/HHS would like to lease space from the City for the shelter and move kids to the facility as early as this week,” the update reads. “We are in the process of finalizing the contract and getting the facility ready for use and wanted to share this with you for your awareness.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] announced on Saturday that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas activated FEMA to assist with the escalating crisis on the southern border.

Mayorkas commended the “exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team” and noted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is not designed to meet the needs of children.

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“I am incredibly proud of the agents of the Border Patrol, who have been working around the clock in difficult circumstances to take care of children temporarily in our care. Yet, as I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said.

“We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves. Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children.”

FEMA’s efforts will center on creating enough capacity to house children who are waiting to be transferred to guardians, who are often relatives already residing illegally in the U.S.

In a press conference near the southern border on Monday, Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), August Pfluger (R-TX-11), and Michael Cloud (R-TX-27) appeared with a number of other Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23), urging the Biden administration to take more assertive action to quash illegal trafficking and illegal immigration.

“Today is about the men and women in green. Our border patrol agents are doing God’s work keeping our borders safe, and for that I want them to know we have your back,” Gonzales said.

He added, “America is a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of laws. Border security and legal immigration go hand in hand.”

Pfluger said the federal government relocated 700 unaccompanied minors to Midland without notifying local authorities, including the sheriff.

“The Biden administration and his policies have resulted in some winners and losers. The winners are the human traffickers who know that because we don’t have a secure border that they can move these children,” Pfluger said.

Asserting that “lawlessness is not compassion,” Cloud accused Biden of enacting policies that enable cartels to abuse women and children.

“The policies that the Biden administration has put in place has caused this crisis at the border. It was predictable, it was easy to avoid,” Cloud said, adding that border agents have been forced to become the “last mile delivery system” for traffickers as they move kids from CBP custody to HHS housing for placement with sponsors.

In a Zoom call, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16) dismissed many of the concerns expressed in the Republican press conference as “xenophobia” and noted that the current uptick in immigration numbers began well before President Biden took office.

While it is true that the upward trend started in April of last year, in February CBP partially ascribed the recent spikes to “inaccurate perceptions of shifts in immigration and border security policies,” in addition to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing turmoil in immigrants’ countries of origin.

Update: This article has been updated with additional context and viewpoints.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."