Skip to navigationSkip to content
Photo via US Customs and Border Protection
Running out of space.
NOTHING FITS ANYMORE

US immigrant detention centers are so crowded Border Patrol is running out of storage space

Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Geopolitics reporter

Immigration at the southern US border has been marked in recent years by an increase in individuals and families with children seeking asylum. They are mostly fleeing violence and other harsh conditions in Central America.

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, meanwhile, has left tens of thousands of those asylum seekers languishing in federal custody, stretching immigration processing and detention centers beyond their limit. Some facilities are reportedly operating at triple and quadruple capacity, and federal officials say the structures were not designed for this level of use.

As a result, US Customs and Border Protection is running out of space. Not just for people—who have been cramped in overcrowded facilities for a while now—but also for the goods they need to support those people.

A solicitation recently posted by the San Diego and El Paso sectors of Border Patrol is seeking bids for additional facilities to store the perishable and nonperishable goods required to hold the tens of thousands of people waiting in detention centers as their immigration cases move through the overworked US court system.

The solicitation details the requirements of the storage supplies: A total of 31 medium and large shipping-style storage containers, of which two must be capable of maintaining freezing temperatures. The request describes the order as “urgent,” and asks for responses within 15 days.

“The process for additional facility space is cost prohibitive and comes with a very long lead time,” reads a background document attached to the bid. “Current operations dictate an immediate solution to the existing deficit in storage space.” The reasons for the current shortage, the document explains, is “the large number of undocumented migrants currently being housed in San Diego.”

According to the request, 21 of the 31 containers are to be delivered to nine border patrol stations in California, while the remaining 10 are to be sent to stations in Texas and New Mexico.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.