Is there room for asylum seekers in the U.S.?

Donna, Texas — President Trump announced a new proposal to slow the number of Central American migrants at the border, including charging those who seek asylum an application fee. But the government actually has hundreds of vacancies.

Just across the U.S. border, CBS News saw hundreds of people waiting for a chance to legally ask for asylum. At a shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, run by pastor Hector Silva, names are kept on a list, part of the surge in asylum seekers.

Last month, border agents said more than 100,000 people illegally crossed into the country. Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is now asking for $5 billion to fix the problem.

“The new wave of vulnerable populations arriving here and exacerbating our already urgent humanitarian security crisis at the border. We don’t have room to hold them,” McAleenan said.

But there is room. CBS News learned Homeland Security already has detention facilities that are operating well below capacity. The Berks County detention facility in Pennsylvania, which can house 96 people only has nine. The Dilley detention site in Texas, which CBS News visited last August can hold over 2,400 women and children. Right now, there is less than 1,000.

2 tent cities opening along southern border in response to migrants surge

Yet DHS has authorized two new tent cities that will hold 500 men, women and children. Immigration attorneys like Katy Murdza say the $36 million price tag is a waste of money.

“These new facilities is another example of what we’ve already seen over the past five years of family detention, which is traumatizing and unnecessary,” Murdza said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the volume of family units crossing the border has overwhelmed their limited transportation resources. In addition to the new tent projects, the Department of Defense will be sending 320 troops to the border again.

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