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More Unaccompanied Minors Moved From Texas To Arizona


All right, another challenge for Customs and Border Protection - waves of unaccompanied children crossing illegally into the United States. We've heard about this on the program. Now the latest turn - Texas has gotten so overwhelmed authorities have had to look for other places for these kids to go. So more than 1,000 children, after a long and dangerous journey to reach the United States from Central America, are on the move again. Over the weekend, they were transferred from Texas to a new detention center in Nogales, Arizona, right on the Mexican border. Cindy Carcamo covers the region for The Los Angeles Times, and she joined us from Tucson. Cindy, good morning.

CINDY CARCAMO: Good morning.

GREENE: So tell us what we know about this facility where these kids are staying right now.

CARCAMO: The facility in Nogales is basically a way station before children are taken to more permanent situations. It's this area that used to be a warehouse. There are Port-A-Potties there. Last I heard, they had brought in, also, these temporary showers. They had ordered 2,000 beds. And the thing is that over the weekend, there were about 1,000 children that were brought over. But my understanding is that they're still busing children in. So this isn't - it's not stopping anytime in the foreseeable future.

GREENE: You're saying a warehouse. I'm imagining some sort of industrial-like warehouse that obviously was not meant for something like this.

CARCAMO: Yes. It used to be a warehouse before U.S. Customs and Border Protection took it over. What it looks like inside, I actually don't know. You know, they're not letting the media inside the facility. So we've only seen pictures here and there, you know, of cots and children milling around. But we can only take it from what CBP is telling us. So...

GREENE: Amazing to think about - that you're saying this is a way station as the government sort of figures out what the status of these kids will be, where they could find a more permanent place. I mean, these are kids who have gone from Texas to Arizona and, you're saying, might end up going back to Texas again once they sort of take the next step.

CARCAMO: Yes. They may go deeper into Texas and San Antonio or Ventura County or Fort Sill in Oklahoma. But really, what they're going to be doing is they're going to be looking for next of kin or relatives who are in the United States who they can place them with. And during this whole time, they're actually in removal proceedings. So I think there's this misconception out there that these children are kind of scot-free. That's not the case at all. And even when they're placed with a relative, they still have their day in immigration court. In immigration court, they still have to make their case as to why they should be able to stay. And that's a whole other rigmarole because these children are not entitled to representation.

GREENE: So these are kids who might be in this old warehouse, you're saying, 7, 8, 9 years old - I mean, some very young kids here who might have to go to an immigration court and do something like that without representation on some day? They might just come in and say, it's time for your court appearance?

CARCAMO: Yes. I mean, some immigration advocates, some people who have been following this for a long time, you know, have said that they've seen 5-year-olds, you know, in immigration court. And they have no representation. Now, it looks like because of all the attention that this is getting, there are definitely organizations out there that are trying to get these kids representation. And also, my understanding is that the U.S. government has set aside some kind of program to try to get representation for some of these children, as well.

But that's really important to understand, that for a long time, there have been unaccompanied minors coming through the Southwest border that have gone through the same process. And if they don't have an attorney, I mean, their chances of staying in the U.S. are - it's really up to the whim of the immigration judge.

GREENE: And, Cindy Carcamo, we've talked about a lot of these kids are coming from Central America, many of them escaping drug violence, some trying to reach family here in the United States - difficult journey to even get here. Can you remind us just what some of these kids have been through?

CARCAMO: Well, what happens is, you know, they have a guide - or a coyote or pollero or what you want to call it, which is basically a smuggler - who are paid to bring them into the United States. Now, these journeys are really, really perilous. And especially now, just as a reminder, it's getting really hot in the Southwest in some areas. And, yes, these children are coming from countries in Central America that have long had poverty. They live in impoverished situations, a lot of these kids. But now you have this whole other factor of rising - just escalating violence and a lot of it having to do with drug cartel activity and also gangs. So it's like this horrible mix of factors that's really propelling these kids to come over.

GREENE: Cindy Carcamo is a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, based in Tucson, Arizona. She's been reporting on the situation in Nogales along the border, where a makeshift shelter has been set up for hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children. Cindy, thanks very much.

CARCAMO: Thank you.

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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