Moffett Field will not be used to house unaccompanied migrant children
MOFFETT FIELD — The Biden administration will not use vacant facilities at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field as overflow temporary housing for unaccompanied migrant children, an elected official said.
U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, whose 18th Congressional District includes the former naval base, said in a statement Thursday she received word from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the idea is off the table.
The announcement comes a week after HHS said it would send officials to evaluate the site.
“HHS informed me today that they are no longer moving forward with consideration of Moffett Field as a shelter for unaccompanied children at this time,” Eshoo said. “As Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee that oversees HHS, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure unaccompanied children arriving at our borders and in the care of HHS are treated humanely and with dignity.”
Eshoo’s staff declined an interview request from this news organization and deferred questions about the decision to HHS.
HHS officials did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
Maricela Gutierrez, executive director of the Bay Area-based immigrant rights group SIREN, said Thursday evening she believes a protest involving dozens of people outside Moffett Field on Monday influenced the decision.
“We feel the pressure from the community and advocates made them think otherwise,” Gutierrez said in a text to this news organization.
Gutierrez noted her organization also launched a petition, which received thousands of signatures in just a few days and was sent to local members of Congress and the Biden administration.
The United States-Mexico border has seen a steady increase in migration since April 2020 “due to ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement last week.
In a recent statement, HHS described evaluating Moffett Field as a possible overflow shelter for migrant children as the “prudent” thing to do given the increasing numbers of children coming into their care.
Recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed a massive spike in February in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the Southwest border.
While 5,858 unaccompanied minors came to the border in January, 9,457 arrived in February, according to the data, a roughly 61 percent increase.
Last month, a total of 100,441 people, including adults, unaccompanied children and families, attempted to enter the country along the border — a 28 percent increase over January — though more than 72,000 of those were turned back, the agency said.
Gutierrez said previously it was a “ruse on the American people” to call the facilities HHS uses to house migrant children “shelters,” and that they should be referred to as detention centers.
“We are relieved the Biden Administration decided not to establish a children’s detention center in Mountain View, however our work is not finished. Thousands of children and their families remain detained in inhumane and horrific conditions,” Gutierrez said in a statement responding to Eshoo’s announcement.
“We call on President Biden and (Homeland Security) Secretary (Alejandro) Mayorakas to take bold actions by dismantling immigration detention completely,” she said.