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Biden administration considers using NASA facility to house migrant children

Under the Trump administration, NASA was used to go to space. But under current President Joe Biden, an airfield of the space agency may be repurposed to detain migrant children.

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Under the Trump administration, NASA was used to go to space. But under current President Joe Biden, an airfield of the space agency may be repurposed to detain migrant children.

A NASA site in California is being considered to house the escalating number of child migrants arriving across America's southern border with Mexico.

Federal authorities have eyed an airfield in Silicon Valley, the home of an airstrip and laboratory, which is nestled in the Golden State's tech hub about 11 miles from Apple's headquarters, the Washington Examiner reported. The federal land sits about 500 miles inland from the United States-Mexico border.

Inside sources told ABC News that plans are still in flux, but the site, Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, is expected to hold unaccompanied minors in Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody, which has risen to more than 3,200 in recent weeks, ABC News cited internal CBP documents.

The Department of Health and Human Services has requested federal agencies to determine whether if vacant properties might be available and suitable for potential future use as Temporary Influx Care Facilities for unaccompanied migrant children, NASA spokesperson Darryl Waller told ABC News.

Waller noted that NASA's Ames Research Center is coordinating the site assessment at Moffett Field for HHS personnel to determine whether certain facilities at the site might be suitable to provide temporary shelter space in the future. "This effort will have no impact on NASA's ability to conduct its primary missions," Waller added in the press statement to ABC News.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement confirmed Wednesday night to ABC News that it is assessing opening additional bed space for unaccompanied migrant children at the NASA site in California. "NASA officials will join the HHS staff as they tour the property available for potential future use," ORR said to ABC News, stating that HHS will determine if the site will be used for such operations. Officials expect the decision will be made soon about the feasibility of the NASA site to serve as the potential temporary emergency influx shelter.

The site would work similar to the facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, where migrant children are housed until they're reunited with family members or sponsors in the United States. To date, there are 8,100 minors in ORR facilities.

The majority of minors in CBP custody are over the age of 13, while almost 200 are under the age of 12, according to documentation. Just under 1,500 children have been waiting longer than the legal limit of 72 hours in small concrete rooms without beds, dubbed "hieleras," or iceboxes.

According to CBP data released Wednesday, the agency stopped more than 100,000 unauthorized crossing attempts from Mexico in February alone, up from 78,000 in the month prior. Agents also revealed an uptick, of about 50%, in drug seizures. The continued increase in arrests marks the highest month-by-month total since Border Patrol stations were overwhelmed by an arrival of migrant families in the spring of 2019. About a quarter of those illegal crossing are repeat offenders, one senior CBP official told reporters.

The surge of illegal immigrants continue to climb less than two months after Biden made sweeping changes to former President Donald Trump's border enforcement policies. The news comes after Biden created controversy among several allies on the political left over his administration's reopening of the emergency facility in Carrizo Springs. This same 66-acre Texan remnant of Trump's time—open for one month in summer 2019—was reactivated under Biden to hold up to 700 teenagers ages 13 to 17 as other locations capsize due to social distancing measures.

The resistance forced the White House to retract, instead opting to house all migrant children at permanent facilities despite previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that areas should operate at half-capacity throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the overflow of migrants and the lack of space to contain the population, the Biden administration has so far denied the apparent border crisis.

"I don't think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed is a top priority for the president, what our policy teams are working on every single day," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at Tuesday's press briefing.

Responding to reporters, Psaki declined to term the immigration situation what many are calling an increasing crisis down south. The Biden administration has named four crises used to underpin the White House's policies: COVID-19, the economy, racism, and the climate. Immigration has yet to make the list.

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