The extraordinary surge of unaccompanied immigrant children at the Southwest border has eased somewhat, at least for now, thanks partly to the hot summer weather. But federal, state and local government agencies continue to struggle to accommodate the undocumented children already in the country, and the thousands who continue to cross the border each month.
The federal government has dropped its efforts to find large emergency shelters to handle the surge, but in the last year it has funded an additional 40 permanent shelters (to augment 100 or so existing ones) to provide short-term housing and care for underage immigrants, many of them fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More such shelters are expected to come online in the fall.
Those shelters tend to be small 50 or fewer beds but they are important. They serve as way stations for children, who typically spend a few weeks in them before they are placed in homes with relatives or other sponsors. Community reaction toward new shelters, actual or proposed, is a barometer of public sentiment toward the underage immigrants; so is local reaction to the challenge that large numbers of new immigrant youth may pose for local school systems.