New migrant children's shelter to remain open but empty, officials say

New migrant children's shelter to remain open but empty, officials say
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The Trump administration's expensive new facility for holding unaccompanied migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will remain open, but empty of any children, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Thursday.

HHS spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said that as of Thursday, the last group of children will be discharged to an "appropriate sponsor or transferred from the Carrizo Springs temporary facility to other state licensed programs in HHS’ network of care providers."

Stauffer said the agency will "retain access to the Carrizo Springs site for temporary influx as HHS considers options regarding its future use." 

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Carrizo Springs is run by the nonprofit firm BCFS, which HHS will pay $50 million for its first 60 days of operation. The contract runs through January 2020, at a cost of up to $300 million, but it's not clear how long HHS will keep the facility open.

The camp officially opened June 30 in order to provide more beds to children who were being held in squalid Border Patrol facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border. Temporary influx shelters are much more expensive to operate than traditional facilities, but HHS has said the numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the border make the use of such facilities a necessity.

Carrizo Springs was intended to be the second-largest temporary "influx" facility in the country, with an expected capacity of 1,300 children. The largest influx shelter is the Homestead facility in Florida, which has drawn the ire of congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential candidates.

HHS officials told lawmakers in separate hearings Wednesday and Thursday that the agency has begun transferring children out of the Homestead facility. 

Border crossings fluctuate seasonally, and the massive numbers of children crossing the southern border earlier this year have significantly decreased during the summer months. HHS officials say they will need additional beds once the weather cools, so they are not prepared to close the facilities completely.