DILLEY, Texas (Reuters) - Saying our borders are “not open to illegal migration,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday opened in Dilley, Texas, what is billed as the largest U.S. family detention center to hold those caught entering the country illegally.
Johnson also used the occasion to criticize congressional Republicans he said failed to fully fund his department in the budget bill approved this past weekend.
“If Congress is interested with me in supporting the border security measure we are outlining here today, it should act immediately on our budget request for fiscal 2015,” Johnson said.
The budget legislation funds most government agencies through September 2015. The Department of Homeland Security will be treated differently, getting a funding extension only through Feb. 27, by which time Republicans will control both chambers of Congress.
Republicans insisted on the shorter leash for DHS so that they can try to deny the agency any funds for implementing President Barack Obama’s recent order easing deportations for millions of immigrants without proper documents.
The facility, which Johnson toured, is a former camp for oilfield workers located in a dusty and remote spot about 100 miles (160 km) north of the Rio Grande border with Mexico. It will hold up to 2,400 people, mainly women with children.
Johnson said its presence will send a message to desperate people south of the U.S. border.
“It will now be more likely that you will be apprehended, it will now be more likely that you will de detained and sent back,” he told reporters.
The new facility, called the South Texas Family Residential Center, has several dozen small cottages where families can live. It includes medical facilities, a school and recreational facilities.
An official of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told reporters the cost of operating the center, which will be largely managed by the Corrections Corporation of America, will be $296 per person per day.
The first residents will arrive in the coming weeks from a Border Patrol training camp in Artesia, New Mexico, which was temporarily pressed into service to house women and children during the spike in illegal immigration from Central America this past summer, ICE officials said.
Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric Walsh