Migrant teen tent city to stay open into 2019: report

The migrant tent city currently housing thousands of teens in Texas is set to stay open into 2019 after it was originally set to close on Dec. 31, according to the Associated Press.

The refugee camp in in Tornillo, Texas, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny over its conditions and reported failure to meet certain regulations, will shut down after the new year, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesman Mark Weber told the AP.


Weber declined to provide a more specific time frame for the Tornillo camp's closing. He said HHS is working with shelters to release the children “to suitable sponsors as safely and quickly as possible." 

An official with the shelter operator that runs the Tornillo camp told The New York Times on Sunday that the camp is supposed to close by Jan. 15, with all children released to parents or sponsors.

“By mid-January, the children should be all released,” the official told the Times. “We’re not extending our contract with the government.”

More than 2,300 teens are currently being held at the tent city, the AP reported. Most are Central American children between ages 13 and 17, according to the outlet.

The agency is also planning to house teenagers at a shelter in Homestead, Florida, Weber told the AP. It plans to increase the number of beds at that shelter by 1,000, bringing the total to 2,350 beds.

An HHS watchdog report last month raised concerns that none of the staff the camp were reportedly subject to an FBI fingerprint checks, the result of a waiver that allowed the refugee camp to forego rigorous background checks for staff that could have detected a history of child abuse.

Weber at the time told the AP that HHS was seeking to complete the FBI fingerprint scans for all of the camp's staff members within a month. 

Government data shows that there are currently about 9,800 detained migrant children in facilities holding 100-plus total kids, including Tornillo and Homestead, according to the AP.

Minors are no longer being admitted to the Tornillo camp, Weber told the AP.