The number of unaccompanied minors crossing over the Texas border has more than doubled in the last year, up from about 4,000 to nearly 9,000. That's according to the Department of Homeland Security.
All of those children need a place to stay while they're in government custody. Places normally used as summer camps are now being used for that purpose. It’s the middle of winter but one summer camp is bustling with activity.
Nearly 600 minors who crossed the border unaccompanied are about a week into their three week long stay at the Greene Family Camp.
“It was interesting that these kids were around and needed a place to be that they were here without their parents,” says Loui Dobin, Greene Family Camp Executive Director. Dobin goes on to say, “When we heard the story and we realized what we had here and could be of assistance we decided that it was something we should do.”
The children, all 17 or younger, were brought to camps around Texas after the U.S. government contracted nearly 8,500 temporary beds in October and November because of the influx of unaccompanied minors last year.
According to Dobin, “We've actually done if a number of times. Normally the way we've done is to work with the Red Cross to house people that were fleeing from Hurricane Ike or Hurricane Rita.”
The Federal Government is picking up the entire tab for the stay.
“That includes food services, maintenance, housekeeping, and anything that would normally come with the facility. We are providing a turn-key facility for them to use for their program the same as we would for another group” says Dobin.
There is also round the clock off duty security and care paring one counselor for every eight children. Many of the people working here are local. Residents in the area have offered to pitch in too.
Dobin says, “The only real communication we've gotten from people has been positive people that either wanted to donate clothing items or volunteer or things like that.”
Health and Human Services says they’ve budgeted roughly $13 million dollars for 1000 beds for 30 days. That’s nearly double the cost of the facilities they run all year. They say they don’t anticipate using the full amount but won’t know how much has been spent until the temporary beds are empty.
The minors are in the custody of the Federal Government while officials try to track down relatives in the U.S.
On rare occasions when they can't find next of kin the children are placed in the U.S. Office of Refugee Settlement.
All of the minors stay in the U.S. until their court date where a judge could rule otherwise.