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Home | Tag Archives: tornillo tent city

Tag Archives: tornillo tent city

Tornillo Tent City for Youth Migrants is Now Empty, Texas Congressman Says

A Texas congressman said Friday that the federal government has officially removed all children from the Tornillo detention center for undocumented migrant youths, ending more than half a year of operation for a facility that was decried by critics as a “tent city” and served as a symbol of President Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican whose West Texas district includes Tornillo, announced the closure on Twitter, saying he had been told about it by the facility’s management.

“This tent city should never have stood in the first place, but it is welcome news that it will be gone,” Hurd said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the center, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The hasty closure comes after Texas-based contractor BCFS Health and Human Services and the federal government originally signed a 30-day contract to operate the facility in June. That contract was extended multiple times, despite BCFS officials arguing that the center was not a long-term solution.

The organization’s president, Kevin Dinnin, told Vice News on Friday that he sent the federal government a letter in December saying the facility wouldn’t accept any more children. The government began taking steps to close Tornillo soon after, Vice reported.

“We as an organization finally drew the line,” Dinnin told Vice. “You can’t keep taking children in and not releasing them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the pending closure this week. As of Tuesday, there were still 850 children being held in the facility. The department said at the time that it expected the vast majority of the children at the facility to be released “to a suitable sponsor by the end of the month.”

At one time, the facility held more than 2,500 children. It has been the site of numerous protests, drawing politicians from across the country to Texas to urge the Trump administration to shut it down.

News of the closure was applauded by many of those politicians, along with immigrant rights groups.

“Tornillo was a symbol of this administration’s deep inhumanity as shown by their willingness to hold tens of thousands of migrant children in detention,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

Julian Aguilar contributed reporting.

Author: MATTHEW WATKINS – The Texas Tribune

Tornillo Tent City for Migrant Teens is on the Verge of Shutting Down

EL PASO — After more than six months of serving as a symbol of President Trump’s hardline immigration policies, the detention center for young migrants at Tornillo is on the brink of closing for good.

“We expect the vast majority of [unaccompanied alien children] currently at Tornillo to be released to a suitable sponsor by the end of the month,” said Mark Weber, spokesperson for the federal Health and Human Services agency, which oversees the care and detention of undocumented minor children. “If a suitable sponsor has not been identified for [unaccompanied minors] by the time operations at Tornillo conclude, the [immigrant] will be transferred to an appropriate shelter in the [Office of Refugee Resettlement] network.”

The facility near El Paso opened in June to house mainly unaccompanied minors who crossed the border without parents or guardians. Critics decried the facility as a “tent city” after it was hastily erected, and its construction led to several protests organized by elected officials. At one time it held more than 2,500 undocumented minor immigrants who crossed the border seeking asylum.

On Tuesday, HHS said the population at the facility was down to about 850 children and its goal was to “to close Tornillo as quickly but as safely as possible – for both the [immigrants] and all the personnel who have worked faithfully for months providing excellent care for these vulnerable children” Weber said.

The closure was first reported by VICE news, which also reported that as recently as last week, the facility still held 1,500 unaccompanied minors. The outlet also published photographs of the facility’s tents being dismantled.

News of the facility’s potential shuttering comes after the contract between HHS and Texas-based BCFS Health and Human Services to operate the center was extended several times since last summer. In June, BCFS officials said they were hopeful that the Tornillo facility would only be needed for a few weeks, but the federal agency extended the contract after the number of migrant children crossing the border remained steady or increased during the last half of 2018.

On Tuesday, a BCFS official said the company’s goal was in line with HHS’s timeline and the company hoped to have the facility empty by the middle of the month and completely closed by Jan. 31.

Weber said in his emailed statement that circumstances beyond HHS’s control could determine whether the migrants still at Tornillo are able to be united with sponsors already living in the United States.

“There are all sorts of factors that come into play that impact our ability to transfer or release [unaccompanied minors] to suitable sponsors … ranging from cancelled airplane flights because of weather (happens all the time) to scheduling a home visit when needed,” he said.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Congressman O’Rourke To Lead Father’s Day March to Children’s Tent Camp in Tornillo

UPDATE: Campaign officials with Democratic Candidate for Governor Lupe Valdez announced Saturday afternoon that the former Sheriff of Dallas County and Veteran will join O’Rourke and other regional leaders for the march on Sunday Morning.

****previous story below

On Friday, Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced that he will lead a Father’s Day march Sunday morning to raise awareness of a newly opened tent camp in Tornillo for kids who are taken from their parents under the Trump Administration’s new policy.

The Congressman will be joined by local leaders including former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, advocates, elected officials and concerned Texans as the group marches to the site where hundreds of children are already being sent without their mothers or fathers.

Via a news release, officials with O’Rourke’s office stated that Sunday’s public March to Tornillo comes less than a week after O’Rourke visited McAllen to “witness firsthand the developing humanitarian crisis along the border.”

During his visit, O’Rourke addressed the separation of children from their parents, the treatment, well-being and living conditions of unaccompanied youth, the denial of a legal asylum process for those presenting themselves at our ports of entry and recent actions taken by the Trump Administration.  O’Rourke described the policy as “inhumane.”

According to the Texas Tribune, via the office of state Rep. César Blanco(D-El Paso) confirmed the opening of the facility at the federal port of entry at Tornillo, about 20 miles east of the El Paso city limits. As of Friday afternoon, 100 minors were on site there, Blanco said.

In the same article, the Tribune reported that “Homeland Security officials said that as of May 31, there were 1,995 immigrant children in custody as a result of the “zero tolerance” mandate.”

During a Friday news conference on the North Lawn, President Trump responded to critics of the policy, pointing the blame at the Democrats. Responding to a question from a reporter about how he felt about the policy, Trump responded:

“No, I hate it.  I hate the children being taken away.  The Democrats have to change their law.  That’s their law…the Democrats gave us the laws.  Now, I want the laws to be beautiful, humane, but strong.  I don’t want bad people coming in.  I don’t want drugs coming in.  And we can solve that problem in one meeting.  Tell the Democrats, your friends, to call me.”

However, only a day earlier, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson directly referenced the new “zero tolerance” policy which was announced in April., attributing it to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration.

Senator Rodríguez’s Statement on Trump’s Tent Camp in Tornillo

State Sen. José Rodríguez’s issued the following statement on the Trump administration’s decision to set up a “tent city” in Tornillo to house children forcibly separated from their asylum-seeking parents:

We should have “zero tolerance” for this inhumane, immoral treatment of these children who have been forcibly separated from their asylum-seeking parents. Putting children in tent cities, especially in El Paso where it’s more than 100 degrees, is reminiscent of the disgraced and convicted Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who showed complete disregard for the rule of law and due process. This is what totalitarians in the Middle East and elsewhere do.

For this President, due process and the rule of law, which are cornerstones of individual freedom, are nothing but an impediment to using state powers to target vulnerable people. Immigrants are being targeted now. Who will be next?


José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair)

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