Arizona officials are rushing federal supplies to a makeshift holding center that's housing hundreds of migrant children and is running low on the basics.
Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said Friday that conditions at the holding center are so dire that federal officials asked the state to immediately ship the medical supplies to the center in Nogales.
A Homeland Security Department official told The Associated Press that about 700 children slept on plastic cots Friday and about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered. Portable toilets and showers have been brought to the holding center — a warehouse that has not been used for detention in years.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.
The official said the Nogales holding center opened for children because the Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn. "They became so overwhelmed and haven't kept up with planning," the official said.
FEMA's Region 9 administrator was being sent to the holding center in Nogales on Saturday to oversee efforts to deal with the hundreds of arriving children, Wilder said.
Federal authorities plan to use the Nogales facility as a way station, where the children, mostly from Central America, will be vaccinated and checked medically, and then moved out of the Nogales site as soon as Health and Human Services finds places for them. But the official said: "As quickly as we move them out, we get more. We believe this is just a start."
Homeland Security started flying immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.
Immigration officials can immediately return Mexican immigrants to the border, but they are much more hard-pressed to deal with Central American migrants who illegally cross into the U.S. In recent months, waves of migrants from nations south of Mexico have arrived in Texas.