Two New Tent Cities Along U.S.-Mexico Border Operating as 'Band-Aid' for Surge of Immigrants, Border Patrol Agent Says

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Pedestrians weave through an encampment of migrants occupying the Paso Del Norte Bridge on November 4, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. - Sending thousands of troops to the US-Mexico border to counter a migrant "invasion," questioning the validity of birthright citizenship, and spreading stories of scandalous murders by undocumented immigrants: Trump and his Republicans are making immigration a closing argument of the campaign. It may be a logical move. Immigration is a top concern among Republican voters, and driving those issue-focused Trump supporters to the polls is key. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

Two new tent cities have emerged along the southwest border of the United States and Mexico in a move to accommodate the continued surge of immigrants headed to the U.S. from Central America.

The two camps, located in El Paso and Donna, Texas, were opened on Thursday and can each hold up to 500 people. A temporary solution for an area of the border that sees between 1,200 and 1,500 people a day, NBC News reported.

The need for the so-called 'soft-sided facilities' is obvious as the processing stations in the El Paso sector continue to be packed far above capacity. Currently, the McAllen Border Patrol station is holding 1,200 people in a space built for 384, John Morris, acting deputy chief patrol agent in the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, told NBC News.

Morris said the camps are a "band-aid" for the ongoing border crisis and the overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities.

"This is a border security crisis and a policy crisis," Morris said, telling the news outlet that many of the immigrants in the facilities are families and unaccompanied minors. Under federal regulations, those house in the new tent cities are meant to stay a maximum of 72 hours before they will be relocated. Adults and their children will be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while unaccompanied minors will be placed into the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

According to the New York Times, the new camps include 40,000 square foot tents constructed over two weeks at a cost of $36.9 million.

The tents include medical services, shower stalls, 48-inch flat screen televisions, DVD players and stacks of children's movies along with clothing, food and medical supplies.

The camps received their first arrivals on Friday, two days after a raft capsized on the Rio Grande River. The accident resulted in the death of a 10-month-old-boy while three others — two boys ages 6 and 7 and a man — remained missing. The other five people on the raft were rescued by border patrol.

Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz called the infant's death a "senseless tragedy" in a statement released to the media, blaming smugglers who bring migrants to the border and leave them to make dangerous crossings without proper equipment.

"The men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol have been doing everything in their power to prevent incidents like this," Ortiz said. "And yet, callous smugglers continue to imperil the lives of migrants for financial gain."

According to BuzzFeed News, smugglers previously would wait to ensure that migrants made contact with border agents before they left them but following the restrictions enforced by the Trump administration regarding the number of people who can apply for asylum each day — a process known as metering — smugglers have begun using other methods and leaving people in remote sections of the border so they may avoid lengthy wait times.

"Now with metering, they tell migrants, 'I can leave you here or cross you into the US via the river,'" Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin told BuzzFeed.

Speaking to NBC News, Morris said that the migrants crossing into the El Paso sector don't run away from agents when they approach, often they are looking for them in order to turn themselves in.

But there, too, smugglers are creating problems, commonly by using children, he said.

According to Morris, smugglers telling individuals that if they enter the United States with a child that they will be allowed to remain in the country with the child.

"The child is now known as the ticket. If you cross with a child you will only get held for 20 days, which of course the smugglers will exploit, so we're seeing children that are being recycled," Morris said.