Content originally published by KUSA 9news on January 4th, 2016.
The number of unaccompanied children showing up at the U.S. border with Mexico is climbing and federal agencies are preparing for more to arrive this spring and summer. Colorado is one of four states where these children could end up temporarily staying.
Federal officials tell 9NEWS that up to 1,000 unaccompanied, undocumented children could end up at the Federal Center in Lakewood. It's a possibility they are already preparing for, as they get a building on site ready to temporarily house them. Congressman Ed Perlmutter, whose district includes the Federal Center, recently toured the building that will become the temporarily housing.
"I will continue to work with federal officials and members of the local community to insist this facility is safe, secure and sanitary for both the children staying at the shelter and the local community," Congressman Perlmutter, D-Colorado, said in a statement to 9NEWS. "In addition, I plan to better understand the work federal agencies are doing to address the root cause of this problem in hopes of intervening much earlier to try and keep these children safe and in their home countries."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of caring for these children once they arrive here. A spokesperson told 9NEWS the facility will not just have beds, but that the children will also receive educational classes and health screenings.
The agency said it didn't have a total estimate for how much it is costing to get this temporary housing facility up and running, but they did say that once it is open, on average, it costs about $223 per day, per bed.
Federal officials said it's all part of an effort to be prepared before the children begin arriving at border, like they did in the past several years.
"We're looking at the numbers of children crossing the border at this time of year, when traditionally the numbers are fairly low. And we've seen a large number of children crossing the border at this time," said HHS Spokesperson Mark Weber. "So, when we look to the spring and summer, when the numbers are higher, we anticipate that we need to have shelter and places ready to take care of these children."
On average, each child spends about a month in these temporary facilities, until they can be placed with a family member or sponsor within the U.S. Then begins what could be a lengthy process in the immigration court system, which will ultimately determine whether they can stay or not.
Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul tells 9NEWS that while the handling of the minors is out of the city's hands, he would like more information about what is happening.
"Lakewood has no jurisdiction or authority over this operation," Mayor Paul said in a statement. "I have requested that HHS hold a community meeting to inform the public about this and answer any questions our residents may have. I will continue to push for timely and accurate information."
This facility is expected to be ready by April. HHS said it could remain in operation for six months