TUCSON, AZ - Immigrant children caught crossing the Mexican border into Texas illegally and alone are no longer being sent to a massive Nogales facility.
The steep fall in the number of child border crossers means the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas no longer needs to send the minors to Arizona. More than 57,000 children have been arrested since October.
Nogales, a small city that borders with Mexico, at one point last month had over 1,000 children who had been flown and bused in from south Texas after border agents there became overwhelmed with the surge in crossings. There are now only about 200 children being detained in the 120,000-square-foot warehouse.
It is unlikely, with the opening of a new processing facility in McAllen, Texas, that children will be sent to Nogales at all anymore. A high-ranking Border Patrol official says the location is being phased out as the agency gets a better handle on the problem.
"They're starting to ramp that down. ... As I understand it Nogales is probably going to wind down here within the next day to a week," Rio Grande Valley sector Chief Kevin Oaks told The Associated Press.
The McAllen facility is scheduled to open Friday and will temporarily house as many as 1,000 children until they are turned over to the federal Health and Human Services Department, which finds shelters for them before they are reunited with relatives and their immigration proceedings begin.
The federal government came under fire last month when it began sending the children to a state with its own long-standing illegal immigration battles.
Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, demanded the policy be halted. Others threatened legal action.
The governor believes ending the flow of immigrant children would be a "welcome development," wrote Andrew Wilder, Brewer's spokesman, in an email to the Associated Press on Thursday. However, he wrote, they are skeptical and will wait to see what pans out.
When word spread that 40 or so Central American migrant children would be sent to an academy for troubled youths in Oracle, residents staged a protest and planned on blocking the bus carrying the children.
The protest became tense after supporters of the immigrant children visited the opposing camp. Loud arguments ensued. In a moment of confusion, the anti-illegal immigration protesters temporarily blocked a school bus carrying children from the YMCA that they believed was transporting the migrant children.