A vacant NASA facility in Santa Clara County was on the list as a possible migrant children's shelter, but the feds removed it with little explanation.  

The influx of migrant children at the US-Mexico border seems like a problem happening a comfortable 2,000 miles away from the Bay Area. But that almost changed this week. In a piece published last Wednesday, the New York Times reported that “In the scramble to find additional space for the children, the Biden administration is considering housing them at unused school buildings, military bases and even a NASA site, Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, Calif.”

That site is now owned by NASA, and much of it leased to Google. A NASA spokesperson confirmed to the Times that Moffett Field was being considered as a shelter, describing it as “currently vacant property,” and stressing that “This effort will have no impact on NASA’s ability to conduct its primary missions.”

But the question is now moot, as the feds are apparently no longer considering the site. The Chronicle reports that Moffett Field will not be a migrant children shelter. That reporting builds off the above statement from Silicon Valley’s congressional representative Anna Eshoo, who’s also on a committee that oversees the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who are responsible for this operation.

“HHS informed me today that they are no longer moving forward with consideration of Moffett Field as a shelter for unaccompanied children at the time,” says Eshoo’s statement. “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.”

Immigration advocacy organizations are likely to spike the football that they brought this change of course, but the Chronicle’s reporting on their protests notes that just “More than 50 people protested Monday afternoon at Moffett Field” against the move (several in butterfly costumes). An HHS spokesperson very much sidestepped when the Chron asked for comment on the decision, merely saying that they assess “the availability of infrastructure, the location, the cost of operating a shelter at the site, and other factors that can affect its appropriateness for children.”

Yes, the migrant children issue is a significant challenge. Reuters reported this week that “about 9,200 unaccompanied children” were in HHS custody after trying to enter the US alone, “the highest number since 2019,” and that “Most of the kids in custody are teenagers, but hundreds are under 12 years old.” With COVID-19 concerns, capacity at shelters is sensibly lower, so more shelters are required. Biden is continuing the Trump-era restriction of turning adults and families away at the border, but he’s allowing unaccompanied children into the country, which seems the humane call, but creates zillions of logistical and ethical problems.

So is this kids in cages? It is not kids in cages, and family separation is no longer in effect under President Biden. But these facilities are not all that nice. It’s notoriously difficult for reporters to get an honest look at these conditions, but what little reporting we have indicates they are “they are unlicensed, and it’s a carceral setting.” So the kids are not in cages, they’re more in shitty dorms that they’re not allowed to leave.

Still, the migrant children influx is not going away for the Biden administration. But it’s not coming directly to the Bay Area, at least for now.

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Image: Jeff Ferland via Wikimedia Commons