The Trump Administration is preparing to expand the tent city at Fort Bliss, in the desert outside El Paso, Texas at the Tornillo point of entry. It’s capacity will expand to between 3,600 and 3,800 beds. It will operate at least through the end of the year.
The tent city originally had 360 beds and a mandate of thirty days. It was originally slated to close amid public outrage over the administration’s family separation policy on July 13.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children and Families said the tent city is being expanded to accommodate a surge of unaccompanied minors at the border, and not as a continuation of the Trump Administration’s policy of family separation. Federal courts ordered the administration to end the policy and reunite the families.
“Family separations resulting from the zero tolerance policy ended on June 20, 2018 and are not driving this need,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe said 1,400 of the new beds will be placed on “reserve status.”
4,000 children unaccompanied by an adult crossed the border in July, the month with the most recent available statistics. Though this is down from June, border crossings do tend to increase in the fall following cooler temperatures, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Trump Administration has directed the Pentagon to establish more tent cities on military bases across the southwest, but Wolfe said ground has not been broken on any additional sites.
CBS News in July reported that the tent city, as well as another massive shelter in Homestead, Florida, are on federal land preventing states from unannounced child welfare inspections.
More than 400 children remain in government custody following their separation from their families, in violation of a court order. Wolfe has not said if any of those 400 children are housed at the tent city.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.