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Gov. Jan Brewer and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson exchange pleasantries outside a Nogales detention center. / Michael Schennum/The Republic

NOGALES, Ariz. -- A warehouse converted to hold and process hundreds of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border will continue to operate throughout the summer, officials said.

"We've got to continue to process these kids in a safe, healthful, and humane manner and Nogales is part of that solution," Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said during a news conference.

Johnson toured the facility with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday morning. Johnson toured a similar facility in McAllen, Texas, last week. They gave separate conferences and took questions from reporters after the tour.

More than 100 unaccompanied migrant children enter and leave a modified warehouse in Nogales each day, according to Brewer.

She said that while the situation was heart-breaking, it was also an indication that the federal government has not sent a strong message about the security of the border.

"I just call upon the federal government once again to do their job and secure our borders," Brewer said.

Before Brewer and Johnson spoke outside the facility, children in white shirts and navy blue shorts were visible through the chain link fence playing with a wall in the shade of a white tent.

"I have to say that the kids, while this is not an ideal situation, look as if they are being well taken care of under the circumstances," Johnson said.

The shelter, which can hold up to 1,100 children, currently has about 900 children, Johnson said. The children were first bussed to the Nogales facility three weeks ago after they overwhelmed existing centers in Texas.

The number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent increased 99 percent from last year. Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 52,000 children at the border as of June 15. Johnson said 350 children a day are caught in the Rio Grande Valley Sector alone. The majority of these kids, 75 percent, travel from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

"Once they come here they go to Health and Human Services, they are not released to the street in Arizona, they are not released to a bus station in Arizona," Johnson said.

Customs and Border Protection is legally obligated to place the child in the location of their best interest, often a shelter, within 72 hours. However, in recent months the influx of children has slowed the process.

Johnson could not elaborate on how many children have been released or how many appear for scheduled Immigrations and Customs Enforcement appointments. He said the administration is working to make those numbers available.

Brewer also reported up to 200 of the children could stay in Arizona longer. Southwest Key, a non-profit that operates unaccompanied minor shelters nationwide, received a temporary go-ahead from the City of Tucson to convert a former student-housing complex into a shelter.

Johnson again appealed to the parents of Central American children who would send their children north to the United States.

"This journey is a dangerous one, and at the end of it, there is no free pass. There are no permisos for children, for your children, who come to the United States," Johnson said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Homeland Security chief tours migrant facility in Ariz.

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