U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials shut down the South Texas warehouse where chain-link enclosures were deplored as “cages” during the Trump administration’s crackdown on migrant families and children, reports the Washington Post. The facility will undergo renovations until 2022. Chain-link partitions will be removed, and the warehouse will be redesigned to provide detained migrants with more humane conditions, officials said. The renovations will take 18 months or longer, leaving agents without a large-volume facility if a new migration surge occurs next year. “The new design will allow for updated accommodations, which will greatly improve the operating efficiency of the center as well as the welfare of individuals being processed,” said Border Patrol spokesman Thomas Gresback.
The Obama administration opened the facility in 2014 after a record number of Central American families and children began streaming into South Texas, leaving border stations dangerously overcrowded. CBP obtained a large warehouse and converted it into an air-conditioned processing center to accommodate the surge. Inexpensive chain-link fencing was used to create partitions in the cavernous space, but its grim appearance symbolized the dehumanizing treatment of migrants in U.S. custody. The warehouse has been mostly empty this year, as CBP took emergency public health measures in March that allow agents to quickly “expel” more than 90 percent of border crossers back to Mexico. Last week, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to halt expelling underage migrants. Last month, the number of migrants taken into custody along the Mexico border jumped to 69,237, up 21 percent from September.