Officials inaugurated the nation's largest immigration detention facility Monday amid a renewed push from President Barack Obama to secure the border. The 50-acre detention center being constructed in Texas will house up to 2,400 illegal immigrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, used the opening of the center in Dilley, 85 miles northeast of Laredo, to highlight the Obama administration's border security plan less than a month after Obama promised to make it easier for up to 5 million illegal immigrants to obtain temporary work and resident visas. It will be by far the largest detention center for migrant families in the nation, with the current largest featuring only about 100 beds.
“It will now be more likely that you will be detained and sent back,” Johnson said during his speech. “This must be clear. Our borders are not open to illegal migration.”
The Texas detention center is designed to house migrant women and their children as their deportation cases are processed in the U.S. court system, according to the New York Times. It includes a library, classrooms and a playground with a slide and bench. The $290 million detention center was formerly the site of a “man camp” for oil workers, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Texas is leading a lawsuit from more than 20 states suing to stop the federal government from allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. under Obama's policy. At the same time, immigration proponents argue that the nation should not detain immigrants for months as their cases are processed in court. “There are no conditions that could make the mass incarceration of families right,” Stephen Manning, an immigration lawyer, told the New York Times.
Johnson also slammed Congress Monday for not funding border security through the fiscal year. The $1.1 trillion federal spending bill passed by lawmakers last week only funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27 in protest of Obama's immigration policy.
“Congress has failed to act on this department’s request for supplemental funding for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, to pay for our surge in resources to the southern border in response to last summer’s spike in illegal migration there,” Johnson said. “We need to pay the bill for that surge, and keep those resources in place for the future.”
Obama unveiled last month his executive plan to move forward and reform the nation's immigration laws without Congress' approval. The plan will benefit the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants who've lived in the country for at least five years.