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PORT HUENEME, CALIF. — Hundreds of migrant children will be sheltered at a naval facility in California amid a spike in the number of minors caught crossing the border alone, authorities said Tuesday.
A 42,000-square-foot building in Port Hueneme previously used to house naval reservists before they deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan will be used as a temporary shelter, said Vance Vasquez, a spokesman for Naval Base Ventura County.
The facility, which has bed space for 570 people, was remodeled in 2007 and is equipped with showers, bathrooms and recreation spaces for TV watching and games. It has been closed for more than a year, Vasquez said.
Federal officials say children could start arriving as soon as this week at the facility 60 miles west of Los Angeles.
The government is also housing migrant children at a military base in Texas. Officials estimate as many as 60,000 children, mostly from Central America, could be caught at the border this year, which would be a nearly 10-fold increase since 2011.
Rampant crime and poverty across Central America and a desire to reunite with parents or other relatives are thought to be driving many of the young migrants. While the children face deportation proceedings if they are caught in the U.S., many have been able to win permission from an immigration judge to stay.
Children will be flown to the Port Hueneme site from other shelters while being cleared for transfer to sponsors, said Laura Goulding, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Health and Human Services Department. They will receive English language instruction, arts and crafts activities, and recreation at the shelter, she said.
Goulding said most children are expected to remain at the base less than the average stay of 35 days.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to the children’s deportation cases once they are transferred to Port Hueneme. A message was left for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.