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Family reunites as U.S. scrambles to find emergency housing for migrant children

U.S. scrambles to find shelter for migrant kids
U.S. scrambles to find shelter for migrant ki... 02:18

There's no let up in the waves of immigrants trying to get into the U.S. at the southern border. Many are children. One group of more than 40 minors was taken into custody Sunday. One shelter in San Diego is filling up fast.

The San Diego Convention Center is housing 500 migrant girls between the ages of 13 and 17 who crossed the border alone. Another 250 are expected to arrive later Monday night where they will stay until they can be reunited with family or a sponsor, or are taken to other long-term shelters.

"We are in an emergency response posture," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. "This is a humanitarian issue ... It's not about warehousing children, it's not about tin foil blankets and cages, that is not what we are doing here."

It's part of the race to find space for the more than 17,000 unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody. The Department of Health and Human Services will open nine emergency facilities with more than 16,000 beds and it is considering opening more sites for children.

The Department of Homeland Security now expects up to 20,000 children to cross the border alone in April — and expect that number to rise to 25,000 in May.

migrants immigration — Mexico
Migrants line up for a free meal at a makeshift camp in Tijuana, Mexico, on March 17, 2021. Gregory Bull / AP

Unaccompanied children seeking asylum can stay, but most families and single adults are returned into Mexico, putting them back in danger.

That's the situation for 15-year-old Leonor and her father Jose. He was a pastor in El Salvador helping young gang members find a way out of that life.

Jose told CBS News in Spanish that if he hadn't left, he would probably be dead by now.

They fled El Salvador after the gangs killed some of their family members. Last October, Leonor crossed alone, leaving her father behind. She feared being raped.

After a six-month separation, Leonor and her brother reunited with both parents in the U.S. in an emotional yet happy moment.

Reunions like that one are the best-case scenario, but making that happen for tens of thousands will take time. The girls who arrive here will stay an average of 30 days. Some 500 boys are expected to arrive at another shelter that has opened in San Antonio.

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