Number of children crossing alone from Mexico into U.S. surges

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by Claudia Johnson

(CBS) -- There is a surge developing in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S.


And it is creating dire conditions at a makeshift holding center in southern Arizona, where food, water and medical supplies are now running low.


Arizona's governor is putting the blame squarely on the White House, CBS Phoenix station KPHO-TV reports.


Behind a gate of the U.S. Border Patrol in Nogales is a converted warehouse where the children are staying. On Saturday, there were at least 750 of them living there, ranging in age from 3 to 18, all of them alone.


Photos of the kids taken Friday night show them wrapped in marathon runner-type blankets, sleeping in tubs and being monitored by Department of Homeland Security Border Patrol agents.


They shouldn't be there. Ordinarily, this facility houses only adults who cross the border illegally. But in the last 11 days, the Department of Homeland Security says it's been overwhelmed with a flood of children crossing into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas -- 48,000 just last month, as many as 200 children a day.


Most are from Central America. Krista Piferrer works at Baptist Child and Family Services in San Antonio.


"These are really good conditions, certainly better than most of the children have come from and without question better than the conditions in which they traveled here from," she said.


DHS says it's trying to fix the problem but right now has nowhere else to put them. On Saturday, some of the children were en route to facilities still being prepared in California, Texas and Oklahoma.


For those still there a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived and is providing health care.


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says she is "disturbed and outraged" that the federal government is implementing what she calls a "dangerous and inhumane policy."


DHS has ordered 2,000 mattresses for a building that's only supposed to hold 1,500 people. On Saturday, the consul general of El Salvador said the kids are getting showers and appropriate nutrition.


Last night the Department of Justice announced it is looking for young lawyers and paralegals to provide legal assistance for all the families. As for the kids, according to the El Salvador official, some of them are beginning to miss their families and get depressed, so Border Patrol agents are creating a play area.