(Reuters) - Three interim shelters that have housed thousands of unaccompanied children who have come to the United States from Central America will close within weeks due to decreasing numbers of minors making the trip, officials said on Tuesday.
More than 7,700 children have been sheltered in facilities on military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma since they were opened in May and June, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
“We have seen a decrease in the number of children crossing the southwest border,” Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the department’s Administration for Children and Families, said.
Of the shelters to be closed, a facility at the Fort Sill Army base in Oklahoma will no longer be caring for children from Friday.
Two other interim shelters - one at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and one at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme in California - will be phased down, with operations expected to end over the next two to eight weeks. They can be re-opened if the need arises, Wolfe said.
In addition to the decline in children crossing the border, other measures have contributed to the ability to close the three interim shelters.
“We are able to take this step because we have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities,” Wolfe said.
Nearly 60,000 children traveling from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, often to escape poverty and violence at home, have tried to enter the United States at its southwest border this year, U.S. officials have said.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives late on Friday approved legislation that would provide $694 million in additional funding for border security and to care for children, though the measure has almost no chance of becoming law.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Jim Forsyth in San Antonio and Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Catherine Evans and Leslie Adler