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June 8, 2014

Arionza rushes supplies to site holding migrant kids

PHOENIX — Arizona officials say they are rushing federal supplies to a makeshift holding center in the southern part of the state that’s housing hundreds of migrant children and is running low on the basics.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said Friday that conditions at the holding center are so dire that federal officials have asked the state to immediately ship medical supplies to the center in Nogales.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

The immigrant children were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office near where they were traveling within 15 days.

A Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 700 children were sleeping on plastic cots Friday and about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered. Portable toilets and showers also have been brought to the holding center — a warehouse that has not been used to house people in years.

In addition, vendors are being contracted to provide nutritional meals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, will provide counseling services and recreational activities.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, said the Nogales holding center opened for children because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn.

“They became so overwhelmed and haven’t kept up with planning,” the official said.

ICE has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence.

The Homeland Security official said the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.

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