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Tuesday , October 23 2018
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Home | Tag Archives: separating families at the border

Tag Archives: separating families at the border

Detention Center for Immigrant Children in Tornillo Will Remain Open Through mid-September

TORNILLO — The immigration detention facility for undocumented immigrant minors in this West Texas outpost will remain open another month, federal and state officials confirmed on Friday.

The facility was erected in June and was originally scheduled to close in July, but federal officials extended the contract with its service provider until Aug. 13. But a spokeperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families said the facility will now be up and running until Sept. 13.

The detention center, which critics have called a “tent city,” houses unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally.

“HHS will continue to assess the need for this temporary shelter at Tornillo Land Port of Entry, Tornillo, Texas, based on projected need for beds and current capacity of the program,” the spokesperson said in a news release. “HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement is continuously monitoring bed capacity available to provide shelter for minors who arrive at the U.S. border unaccompanied and are referred to HHS for care by immigration officials, as well as the information received from interagency partners, to inform any future decisions or actions.”

San Antonio-based BCFS Health and Human Services currently operates the facility, but the HHS spokesperson said in an email that no new contracts for operations at Tornillo were awarded. A spokesperson for the company did not respond to an email requesting comment on the latest extension.

The announcement came the same day Democratic state Reps. César Blanco of El Paso, Mary González of Clint, Eddie Rodriguez of Austin, Ina Minjarez of San Antonio, Diego Bernalof San Antonio and Gina Hinojosa of Austin, all members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, toured the facility. They said there are more than 170 immigrant minors in Tornillo, but none are children who were separated from their parents or guardians under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. The facility previously housed a small number of those children, but they have all been released, Minjarez said.

The lawmakers said that while attention from the border crisis has somewhat shifted to other topics, they wanted to keep a spotlight on the Trump administration’s immigration policies and its effect on the minor children. The Tornillo facility was constructed after the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was enacted and was only necessary because it led to an influx of children in other shelters who would otherwise have been left with their parents or guardians.

“We are the only country in the world who incarcerates children [because] of their immigration status,” González said. “At this moment in history, there are kids who could be with families. What we heard today was that the only thing that was stopping these kids from being with their sponsors or with their families [in the United States] was the federal government’s lack of movement regarding background checks. All the kids had a place to go.”

The lawmakers said there are more than 170 undocumented minors at the facility, including 103 from Guatemala, 55 from Honduras, 20 from El Salvador and four from Mexico.

González and Rodriguez said that because the Tornillo facility is on federal land, there is little lawmakers can do in terms of oversight and regulation. They said that policy could create an incentive for the federal government to construct similar detention centers elsewhere and shut out local or state lawmakers who oppose the administration’s continued crackdown on undocumented immigrants who are seeking asylum in this country.

“I think as members of the Texas Legislature, we want to try to get more oversight of these types of facilities, but when they are on federal land it becomes very challenging” Rodriguez said. “So what I am going to be looking at … is what Congress does in terms of putting more of these on federal land so they take away [oversight] from the state government. If that happens, we’ll have tent cities everywhere.”

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Pentagon Asked to Make Room for 20,000 Migrant Children on Military Bases

The Trump administration is considering housing up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases in coming months, according to lawmakers and a Defense Department memo obtained by The Washington Post.

In a notification to lawmakers, the Pentagon said officials at Health and Human Services asked whether beds could be provide for children at military installations “for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018.”

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, addressed the issue on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

“The Department of Defense has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year,” he said. “How will that work? Is it even feasible?”

The plan would seemingly have similarities to 2014, when the Obama administration housed about 7,000 unaccompanied children on three military bases. The Pentagon, in its congressional notification to lawmakers, said it must determine if it “possesses these capabilities.” As required under the Economy Act, the memo said, the Defense Department would be reimbursed for all costs incurred.

The sites would be run by HHS employees or contractors working with them, the memo said. They would provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be present at each location.

The memo was sent to lawmakers Wednesday after President Donald Trump reversed his administration’s unpopular policy to separate children from their parents as they arrived at the southern U.S. border.

The president’s executive order directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “take all legally available measures” to provide Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families,” and the construction of new facilities “if necessary and consistent with law.”

Lt. Col. Jamie Davis acknowledged Thursday that the Pentagon received the request, and said the department is reviewing it.

The Trump administration spent months planning, testing and defending its family separation system at the border, taking more than 2,500 children from their parents in the six weeks prior to the president’s executive order Wednesday bringing it to a halt.

The U.S. government has been examining for weeks whether it can use military bases to house migrant children. Representatives from HHS visited three bases in Texas – Fort Bliss, Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base – last week to review their facilities for suitability, and were scheduled to review Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas on Wednesday, Davis said.

The Obama administration temporarily set up temporary centers in 2014 at three U.S. military bases: Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Naval Base Ventura in California.

Asked about the possibility of military bases being involved again, Mattis said Wednesday that the Defense Department would “see what they come up with” in HHS, and that the Pentagon will “respond if requested.”

Mattis dismissed concerns about housing migrants on military bases now, noting that the Defense Department has done it on several occasions and for several reasons.

“We have housed refugees,” he said. “We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country.”

The secretary, pressed on the sensitivities of the Trump administration separating children from their parents, said reporters would need to ask “the people responsible for it.”

“I’m not going to chime in from the outside,” he said. “There’s people responsible for it. Secretary Nielsen, obviously, maintains close collaboration with us. You saw that when we deployed certain National Guard units there, so she’s in charge.”

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-California, the leading members of the armed services committees, wrote a letter to Mattis on Wednesday requesting assurances that members of Congress would have access to any migrant facility established on a military base. The letter, sent before Trump dropped his family-separation policy at the border, said that it was essential to have access even in cases where only short notice is provided.

Mattis has approved temporarily detailing 21 military attorneys to the Justice Department to help with the glut of immigration cases that have emerged on the border. The order, issued earlier this month, calls for 21 attorneys with criminal-trial experience to assist as special assistant U.S. attorneys for 179 days, Davis said. They will help in prosecuting border immigration cases, he added, “with a focus on misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal reentry cases.”

The possibility was raised in a congressional hearing in May, and first reported as underway by MSNBC on Wednesday night. U.S. law permits a judge advocate lawyer to be assigned or detailed to another agency, including to provide representation in civil and criminal cases.

Authors: DAN LAMOTHE, NICK MIROFF AND SEUNG MIN KIM, THE WASHINGTON POST

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