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Feds Adding Beds, Space to Keep Up With Children at the Border

Ahead of a news conference Thursday, the administration briefed congressional staff on its response to thousands of children arriving at the border.
Image: US Border Protection at Nogales city in Santa Cruz County, Arizona
A US Border Patrol bus drive toward the facilities in Nogales city in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, USA, 10 June 2014. There has been a surge of young unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Central America into the U.S. and are now under the protection of the US Border Patrol. JOSE MUNOZ / EPA

The federal government added more staff to a Nogales, Arizona, Border Patrol holding facility and is expanding capacity in a similar facility in McAllen, Texas, to have 1,100 beds to help deal with an overload of children crossing the U.S. Mexico-border, according to documents obtained by NBC.

A table in a document titled “Congressional Advisory” states that additional staff would deploy Tuesday to make the Nogales Transition Center fully operational by Wednesday. At the McAllen Customs and Border Protection Facility the General Services Administration is supporting a “build out” there with “500 beds initially and 1,100 total.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson planned to brief media on the childrens’ arrivals in a news coneference Thursday afternoon, where more details may be released. DHS spokesman Peter Bogaard said Thursday morning the documents would be discussed at the news conference.

The document - which can be seen here, was provided to participants in a telephone call briefing held by the administration for congressional staff, according to two congressional sources who participated in the call and received the documents.

The administration has gone into overdrive as some 47,000 children or more have arrived at the border in the first six months of the year, outstripping last year’s nearly 25,000.

The Arizona and McAllen facilities are the initial stop for the arriving unaccompanied children before going on to shelters that are operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The children are arriving from Mexico and Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Mexican children can be sent back to their country. But those from Central America are processed at a Customs and Border Protection facility and sent within 72 hours to shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they are housed until they reunite with family or a sponsor or are sent to foster care.

The government also provided a flow chart to Capitol Hill staff - it can be seen here - to better explain the process to members.

Those children who are released to family or foster care still can be deported and are under orders to show up for deportation proceedings, though not all do.

According to the document, HHS already had 94 facilities operating throughout the U.S. that have 6,218 beds. The document issued Wednesday said there were 533 beds available in those facilities.

In response to the numerous children arriving this year, the administration began opening additional shelters at military bases, including one in Southern California where more beds are being added. Combined with the 94 existing facilities, the government has capacity for more than 7,600 beds.

The government already is looking for more potential space. A note in the document says work is ongoing for a potential Baltimore facility. In addition the GSA has provided a list of 156 hospitals and medical facilities to be reviewed as possible sites, the document states.

In a separate briefing call held Tuesday, administration officials said unaccompanied minors are staying an average of 35 days at Health and Human Services shelters and that in the past, the average number of children removed from the country each year was less than 2,000, according to two participants on the call.