The Trump administration has decided to house potentially hundreds of migrant children in tents in a remote area of Texas.
Young immigrants have been surging into increasingly full government shelters in the months since the administration began attempting to prosecute adults who seek to cross the US border, which has resulted in families being broken up.
With some existing facilities nearing capacity, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – which has responsibility over unaccompanied immigrant children – has settled on constructing a temporary site in the border town of Tornillo, Texas.
“HHS is legally required to provide care and shelter for all unaccompanied alien children referred by [the Department of Homeland Security], and works in close coordination with DHS on the security and safety of the children and community”, spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said in an email.
Asked if the structures would be tents, Mr Wolfe said that HHS uses the term “soft-sided structures”.
He said the structures be able to accommodate 360 youths with “potential expansion for more” and confirmed they would be air-conditioned.
The fragmentation of immigrant families who arrive at the border – and the consequent packing of young migrants into government-run shelters – has generated outrage in recent weeks.
Thousands of people had signed up to protest across the country, seeking to amplify resistance to a practice that a senior United Nations official called a “child rights violation”.
After journalists were allowed to tour a 1,500 person facility in Brownsville, Texas that used to be a Walmart, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sparred with reporters over the administration’s policy towards young migrants.
“Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?” reporter Brian Karem said asked Ms Sanders, noting that she is a parent.
Echoing Donald Trump, Ms Sanders blamed the situation on Democratic intransigence.
The US president has faulted Democrats for blocking an immigration deal and has falsely asserted that his rivals authored a law mandating the family separations.