RIO BRAVO, Texas (Border Report) – A new soft-sided migrant processing facility has been built near this rural South Texas border town, one of eight such new facilities that are being put up across the Southwest border ahead of a potential surge of migrants should Title 42 be lifted.
This facility is in Webb County, about 16 miles southeast of the bustling border city of Laredo, Texas, and near other privately-run prison facilities that have sprung up along Highway 83.
U.S. Rep.Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Committee, told Border Report that this facility is part of a new concept to get several federal agencies into one area to assess, process, refer and decide the fate of migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico.
This includes U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials; Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, as well as medical and legal authorities.
“It’s a new concept because instead of doing things separately we want to put everybody together and I think by providing services to everybody including legal services, health services, everything together, all the agencies I think that will be more efficient and better for the migrants and quite honestly for the federal government,” Cuellar said.
The Appropriations Committee funded $200 million toward the tent facilities, and Cuellar told Border Report this week that the Laredo facility is currently hiring hundreds of employees to get up to full staff.
The Laredo center is designed to process up to 1,500 migrants per day, and Cuellar says it will be a hub for migrants who are picked up from thousands of miles away.
“Laredo is getting people from Yuma, (Arizona); El Paso; Eagle, Pass, (Texas); Del Rio, (Texas), the (Rio Grande) Valley and Miami also,” Cuellar told Border Report Tuesday.
He said the contract vendor who runs the facility currently is hiring about 100 border processing coordinators and shift supervisors.
“So they’re looking at ramping this up pretty much,” Cuellar said.
The white flapping tent facilities are behind a security gate and most of the facility is hidden behind a tall fence covered with black screen to prevent onlookers.
Migrants on Tuesday could be seen inside a front-facing tent under supervision by contract security personnel in their signature black shirts and khaki pants.
Busloads of migrants also could be seen coming and going from the facility in this dusty, windy scrublands full of cactus where triple-digit heat already is a daily occurrence.
Over 200,000 migrants were encountered crossing the border in April, according to new numbers released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
But analysts predict thousands more – possibly 18,000 per day – could try to cross if Title 42 ends on Monday, as the Biden administration plans.
Title 42 is a public health order issued in March 2020 by the Trump administration that allows DHS to immediately turn back all asylum-seekers in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus between borders.
Several states, including Texas, have legally challenged lifting the order, fearing it could drive masses of migrants to the border.
A judge in Louisiana is expected to decide any day on whether to extend the order or allow it to be lifted.