Updated Jun 24, 2014 - 10:00 am
Immigrant children in Arizona facility living in crowded, fenced, concrete cells
NOGALES, Ariz. -- The federal government has provided a glimpse of a converted warehouse that is housing hundreds of children who entered the country from Central America.
About 1,000 children are staying at the 120,000-square-foot warehouse. They sleep next to chain-link fences topped by barbed wire that separate them by age and gender.
When children arrive at the facility, they are given the opportunity to shower and change clothes. They then undergo a health screening and isolated for 24 hours as a precaution.
A small group of boys had enough space in one fenced-in area to play soccer, but most were lying on tiny mattresses and covered by aluminum foil-like Mylar blankets.
FEMA-provided shower trailers were near the recreation area and laundry facilities.
A teenage girl could be seen holding a newborn on her chest and appeared to be guiding a toddle by the hand.
The children are fed both warm and cold meals three times a day and take turns by group using the 200-seat dining area.
Authorities at the Nogales station have struggled to adjust to their new role as temporary caretakers.
For example, it took a few days of children rejecting breakfast burritos before agents learned that Central Americans aren't accustomed to flour tortillas. FEMA renegotiated its contract with a food vendor to begin receiving corn tortillas instead.
The children were apprehended in Texas, then taken to Arizona to be processed. They are then sent to a shelter where the government houses them until they can be reunited with family members.
Consuls and phones are made available to the children.
Federal agents said they could not provide an estimate of the number of minors at the facility because the figure is fluid as children transition in and out.
KTAR's Sandra Haros contributed to this report.