There are so many migrant children in one shelter a headcount is taking hours

  • Migrant children are being forced to undergo prison-like headcounts at some shelters.

  • At the country's largest shelter for migrant children, Casa Padre, the count can last for hours.

  • In prison, inmates are usually required to stay in their cells or by the doorway for the duration of the count.

  • But the count seems pointless after child walked away on Saturday, and a spokesman for the shelter said staff can't force children to stay.

So many migrant children being held at one shelter that headcounts are taking hours to conduct, Washington Post reported Sunday.

Nearly 1,500 boys, aged from 10 to 17 — some arrived in the US as unaccompanied minors, others were separated from their parents under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy currently reside at Casa Padre shelter in Brownville, Texas.

The 250,000-square-foot facility, run by Southwest Key, is the largest migrant children's shelter in the country and has had to repeatedly increase its capacity.

But that is providing certain logistical challenges for staff who are unable to efficiently account for all the children in their care.

With wings, named after US presidents, spreading across the entire facility, staff can spend hours conducting prison-style headcounts, according to The Post.

The paper did not elaborate on the process but prison headcounts usually involve prisoners standing inside or out the front of their cells during a count. At Casa Padre it's likely that the nearly 1,500 migrant children need to all remain in their 313 door-less rooms for the hours-long count.

The purpose of the count is to ensure the correct number of children are at the facility and that they're in the correct location within the building. According to The Post, one child thought to be missing last week was actually just in the Truman rather than the Reagan wing.

But on Saturday a teenage boy ran away from the facility.

Though the children are only allowed outside for two hours a day, Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller told The New York Times that it couldn't legally force children to stay if they tried to leave.

"We are not a detention center," Eller said in a statement. "We talk to them and try to get them to stay. If they leave the property, we call law enforcement."

It's not known whether a headcount alerted staff to the boy's disappearance.

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