ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) – A New Mexico Air Force base will no longer serve as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children after the last of them leave Friday, officials said.
Holloman Air Force Base was among a handful of federal sites recently tapped to serve as shelters amid an influx of young Central American immigrants crossing the border. That surge has started to taper off, officials said.
A total of 129 children were housed at the base over the past four weeks, and officials said the remaining children would be reunited with parents or family members Friday. The temporary shelter had 250 beds and room to grow to 700.
The shelter at Holloman is transitioning to "reserve status" because of the decline in referrals of unaccompanied migrant children, and it may house kids again later, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
"However, the facilities that we used are based upon the number of referrals HHS gets from the Department of Homeland Security," said Christian Patterson, spokesman for the health agency. "Assuming we have space in other places, Holloman will be a last resort."
In January, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter directed Holloman to be the first of three temporary shelters to open in New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. An assessment later showed the price tag and timeline for getting a shelter ready in Colorado wasn't going to work out.
Now, Health and Human Services officials are working with the U.S. Department of Labor to use a vacant Job Corps center in Homestead, Florida, to provide shelter beds as needed.
Most of the children that were housed at Holloman were between the ages of 14 and 17 and from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They stayed an average of about a month. The children received schooling and medical care until they could be placed with sponsors as they waited to hear whether they would be deported or allowed to stay in the U.S.
Holloman had no major issues while the children were staying there, and officials were grateful for the community's support, Patterson said.