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Arizona asked to rush supplies to migrant kids

PHOENIX--Arizona officials say the U.S. government has asked them to rush medical supplies to a makeshift holding center housing hundreds of migrant children who were sent to the state after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico alone.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

The immigrant children were flown from Texas, released in Arizona and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office near their destination within 15 days.

A Homeland Security Department official told The Associated Press that about 700 children were sleeping on plastic cots Friday at the warehouse in Nogales, but that the number of children there was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, said the Nogales holding center opened for children because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn.

“They became so overwhelmed and haven't kept up with planning,” the official said.

ICE has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence.

The Homeland Security official said that about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered, and portable toilets and showers have been brought in.

The station began housing children flown from South Texas last Saturday. There are flights scheduled through mid-June.

Federal authorities plan to use the Nogales facility as a way station, where the children will be vaccinated and checked medically. They will then be sent to facilities being set up in Ventura, California, San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

But the Homeland Security official said: “As quickly as we move them out, we get more. We believe this is just a start.”

The children being held in Nogales are 17 or younger. The official estimated three of every four were at least 16.

Customs and Border Protection in Arizona “is prepared to and expects to continue processing unaccompanied children from South Texas,” said Victor L. Brabble, a spokesman for the agency.

'I hear they help kids'

Gov. Jan Brewer in recent days sent an angry letter to U.S. President Barack Obama demanding that the federal program of dropping off of families at bus stations in Phoenix stop immediately, calling it dangerous and unconscionable.

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A bus carrying children arrives at a border patrol facility in Nogales, Arizona, Saturday, June 7.

(AP)

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