Feds call off pricey Lakewood immigrant children’s shelter

The federal government has cancelled its plans to convert a large warehouse in Lakewood into a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children from Central America.

The facility, which would have had a capacity of 1,000, was planned in anticipation of a rise in the the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the U.S. Children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — a region known as the Northern Triangle — often enter the U.S. to escape violence in their home countries.

Unlike unaccompanied minors from Mexico, young Central American asylum seekers are given the opportunity to plead their cases in immigration court. But first they spend an average of 32 days in federal facilities while they wait to reunite with family members or sponsors.

The planned Lakewood facility has previously been referred to as a detention center, but that’s incorrect. It would actually have been a shelter, and would have been tasked with providing safe and humane care for immigrant children in transition. But some worried that the sheer size of the facility, much larger than other similar shelters nationwide, would have made such care difficult.

The proposed facility, which was expected to open in April, was ultimately deemed too expensive and time consuming to build. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said converting the warehouse would have taken nearly a year and cost between $28 and $37 million.

Photo credit: Kelsey Ray