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Home | Tag Archives: tornillo

Tag Archives: tornillo

Operator of Migrant Facility in Tornillo says it Might Not Stay Open Past July 13 When Contract Expires

TORNILLO — The tent city erected at this port of entry near El Paso was quickly built and opened less than two weeks ago to house undocumented immigrant children. On Monday, its operator said it may not keep operating after July 13, when its federal contract expires.

The incident commander for BCFS Health and Human Services, which operates the facility, said he doesn’t yet see a need to extend operations beyond that date because he doesn’t the arrival of many more minors. But a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told reporters during a tour of the facility that the government could ask to extend the contract — and even expand the facility if needed.

“The federal government will make a decision [later] about future needs,” said HHS spokesman Mark Weber.

HHS and BCFS officials gave about two dozen reporters a tour of the controversial facility, although they did not allow photography or audio recordings and interactions with the children were limited to greetings.

As of Monday morning, the facility housed 326 minors including 162 from Guatemala, 117 from Honduras, 40 from El Salvador, three from Mexico and four from countries simply classified as “other.” About two dozen children who were separated from their families at the border have arrived at the facility, and officials said three of those children have so far have been reunified with family members. Another 67 of the unaccompanied minors who arrived alone have been reunited since arriving at the facility.

Reporters were given a briefing on the facility’s operations inside a mobile command unit, where about 12 BCFS staffers monitored the facility through cameras and computer screens, kept a daily track of visitors and updated a daily tally of the facility’s population. The BCFS incident commander, who asked not to be identified by name, said security was essential due to the number of elected officials and media who had descended on the facility.

The rest of the sprawling facility, constructed in just three days, consisted of about 20 tents that act as dormitories. Each unit, with names like Alpha 10, has 10 bunk beds equipped to handle 20 minors at a time. Drawings and pages from coloring books could be seen tacked to some of the walls, many containing Bible verses, and a daily schedule dictating everything from laundry to lunch was taped to a table at the dorm entrances.

When one group is waiting in line to use the showers, another is taking its turn at the phone stations. And before it gets too hot, some of the minors are allowed to play soccer on a makeshift field that sits just south of the dormitories. Every unit is air conditioned and Weber said there have been no complaints about the heat.

The BCFS official said the operation is staffed by about 250 people, including translators, medical staff and counselors that help the children make calls to family members. He said it resembles a boot camp because it’s the easiest way to keep order.

He had scathing words for the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” mandate that resulted in the separation of thousands of minor children from their parents after they were apprehended or surrendered themselves at the border.

“It was an incredibly dumb, stupid decision,” he said, adding several times he hopes to never again conduct an operation like this one.

Meanwhile, Weber pushed back against claims that HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s process to reunite parents with their children has been chaotic so far. Several legal aid providers have criticized the process, saying it consists of little more than a 1-800 number that parents of other advocates can call to get information on where their children are.

“We know where the parents are, we are working as fast as we can” to get them in touch with their children, Weber said.

He said a some anecdotal stories about parents unable to locate their children isn’t the reality for most families. He said the process also includes verifying that a person is authorized to accept the child, and that takes time.

“We need to verify documentation [because] we don’t want to release a child too soon. It takes time.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Cornyn Calls on Democrats to Join Effort to Keep Families Together, Enforce the Law

WASHINGTON – Monday on the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed his recent trip to the Texas-Mexico border and the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, legislation to ensure immigrant families can stay together while they await their court proceedings.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found above.

“I traveled there to tour two facilities in Brownsville, along with Senator Cruz, that housed young children, some very young, some up to 18, just under 18 years of age, that are being sheltered after their parents crossed illegally into the United States.”

“After touring these facilities in Brownsville and meeting with various federal agency officials and nongovernmental organizations and local elected officials at the Weslaco border patrol station, what we learned is the situation is far more complex than meets the eye and that many of the narratives that have been spun about what’s happening at the border are just simply false.”

“The federal officials at the Weslaco border patrol station went through the step-by-step process of what happens to immigrant families when they are apprehended at the border, what happens when they’re detained, and what happens when their cases are heard in a court.”

“Treating families with compassion by allowing them to remain together and enforcing our immigration laws don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And our bill will ensure that they aren’t. It will allow children to stay with their parents in a safe facility while they await their court proceedings to see if they perhaps are eligible for some sort of immigration benefit like asylum.”

“Our bill would also set mandatory standards for care in family residential centers where immigrant families are placed and keep children safe by requiring they are removed from the care of any individual that presents a danger to them.”

“What happens now that kids have been placed apart from their parents? Our bill requires the administration to take steps to reunify as many families as possible.”

“Some have falsely claimed that our bill promotes indefinite detention of families. But that’s certainly not the intention. Our bill does not mandate the Department of Homeland Security detain parents and their kids indefinitely.”

“On this issue, I think her bill has a number of problems. In fact, there’s a huge question of what sort of enforcement, if any, would be permitted under her bill. In effect, this bill would make it impossible to criminally prosecute parents for crossing the border illegally unless their child is able to go into Department of Justice custody with the parents. This bill doesn’t even specify where the families should be held.”

“That’s a big problem, Mr. President, because children shouldn’t go to jails and prisons run by the Department of Justice with hardened, potentially violent criminals… That’s why essentially the bill advocates for catch and release.”

“Both our bills allow for families to be kept together while they are waiting for court proceedings, but only one of them, the Tillis bill, also permits enforcement of our laws.  That seems to be the choice that our Democratic colleagues have made.”

“If we come together, we can resolve the situation swiftly and ensure these children are kept with their families.”


Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

Voices from the Valley: San Lorenzo, Manguera Water and Flowers for the Virgin Mary

I passed San Lorenzo on my way home yesterday. I grew up right behind the adobe church in Clint. Passing the church, I was reminded of the May flower offerings to the Virgin Mary when I was growing up. This we did every May and every May I offered flowers, but I wasn’t always happy about it.

See, I was a tomboy as a kid. I was outside all day long every day playing in the irrigation ditches of Clint, climbing in and out of the cars in my grandfather’s junkyard, scaling houses, sheds, and rock walls, riding my bicycle, recruiting bugs for my bug armies, and challenging the neighborhood kids to roller skating races.

I was also busy breaking bones as a kid. I thought I was Evil Knievel for a time and ended up breaking my collarbone. Playing in the junkyard also proved dangerous as well as I ended up breaking the fingers in my left hand. That didn’t matter though, I loved playing outside. I rarely came inside for anything, not even to drink water or eat.

There was no Xbox, no Playstation, no IPad. Heck, there wasn’t even Atari yet. My entertainment was outside.

If I was hungry, I’d run to my grandmother’s fig tree and swipe a fig. When I was thirsty I’d do what all the other kids did; I’d grab the manguera (Spanish for garden hose) to quench my thirst. It didn’t matter whose manguera we used.

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain how the  manguera is used.

There is a certain way to drink water from a  manguera and I feel I should point this out because it’s important. First, we’d never let the manguera touch our lips because we didn’t know where it had been. We’d turn the water on just enough so it wouldn’t run straight down.

We’d spread our legs slightly, and with our heads leaning forward we’d then drink. Now, we’d have to make sure trusted friends manned the spigot otherwise they’d turn the water on full force and we’d splash our faces.

There were no water bottles, no Dasani, no Evian, no Sam’s Choice. Nope, we got our water from the manguera.

However, my outdoor good times were cut short in May.

In May my mom would call me in early because as a young girl of a certain age belonging to the San Lorenzo parish, I had to make my daily offerings of flowers to the Virgin Mary along with the other little girls from the community. For me it was an ordeal though.

See, I hated wearing dresses. I couldn’t play outside in a dress. I couldn’t get on the roof of a shed in a dress. There was no way to explore the acequia in a dress. Certainly riding my bike in a dress would prove difficult. I mean Evil Knievel didn’t wear dresses! Dresses were inconvenient! Any self-respecting tomboy knew this and opposed them. I certainly did.

But, as a dutiful little Catholic girl that duty trumped everything and I acquiesced to my mother’s demands and donned the ruffles and lace so I could answer the call of the church bells summoning me and all the other little angels to make offerings to the Virgin Mary. It was our duty.

Plus, we did it out of fear. See, I grew up in the era of fearing the chancla (Spanish for sandal). For many of us if you didn’t do what your mother told you to do she’d throw a chancla at your head. In my house I also grew up with the fear of “making Baby Jesus cry.”

Yep, Abbie Franco never hesitated to pour on the Catholic guilt to get us to do things or to make us feel remorseful and rather miserable after we did something bad. She wasn’t opposed to reminding us that if we didn’t behave we were going to “make Baby Jesus cry.” I certainly didn’t want to do that so I obeyed.

Who am I kidding? I wasn’t always obedient. You’d think the fear of a chancla or making Baby Jesus cry would have kept me in line but if you ask my sister, I was quite the obstinate child, always doing exactly the opposite of what I was told.

If my mom said “don’t touch that,” I would look right at her and touch it, probably with a grin on my face. I guess I should apologize to the Baby Jesus for making him cry so much, should I ever make his acquaintance.

I wonder if apologizing to the Plaster of Paris infant Baby Jesus in a Nativity scene would suffice and absolve me of my childhood sins.

Anyway, back to the May flower offerings, I would run inside the house, and my mom would throw a dress on me. I’d be all sweaty and she’d barely wipe me down and get the frilly frock on me with just enough time for me to join my fellow innocent virgins at San Lorenzo.

Don Regino would still be ringing the church bells as we’d find our places in line and Ninfa would hand us our flowers. Ninfa was the San Lorenzo church lady. She was in charge of everything that had to do with the church. She taught catechism classes, supervised the choir, organized the offerings during mass, and to my recollection was more powerful than the priest and may have told off a bishop or two.

Looking back, I think she could have run the Vatican given the chance. Nobody ever messed with Ninfa. If we missed catechism, she’d drive around in her brown van, hunt us down, pick us up, and return us to catechism. Nope, we didn’t mess with her.

Oh my goodness, though, did this lady know how to make some mean gorditas.

But I digress. Now the flowers we offered weren’t real flowers. Nope, in typical, or stereotypical Mexican fashion, Ninfa would hand us plastic flowers to offer the Virgin Mary. We’d walk up to the altar single file and put our flowers in the vase at the feet of the Virgin de Guadalupe statue.

Little old Catholic ladies with lace doilies on their heads and rosary beads hanging from their hands would sing traditional hymns honoring the Virgin.

I just remember hoping this daily offering would end soon so I could dash outside.

Maybe if time allowed I’d make a quick stop at Don Poli’s store for some stale, old candy that I had to dust off before eating. I’d then run home and get out of my lace imprisonment in the hopes of catching more daylight and good times in the ditches, on the streets, or in my grandfather’s junkyard in my beloved dusty border town.





Author: Christina Franco



Voices from the Valley is a continuing series of stories, videos and live events from our Mission Valley, stretching from Ysleta to Tornillo.

Denver City goes all out to show Tornillo what West Texas Hospitality truly is

For most of us here in West Texas football is king on Friday nights and win or lose that’s what we talk about throughout the week. Thanks to the Denver City (DC) community that not what’s going to be talked about from the DC vs Tornillo game Friday night.

Last season, when the UIL announced the new districts for the 2015-2016 season, District 2 – 3A left fans and coaches with a puzzled look on their faces. A new school which many people didn’t even know existed was on the schedule. The Tornillo Coyotes were now in the district.

A quick google search of Tornillo, Texas would show you that they are located southeast of El Paso, six and half hours away or more from our district in West Texas. Coaches and parents were outraged at the thought of a 13-hour bus ride for a district football game. No one stopped to consider that, while our schools would only have to travel there once in two years, the Coyotes would have to make the same trip 5 times.

No one knew what to expect, but it didn’t take long before our grumbling turned to admiration and respect for the Tornillo community. The players, coaches, administration and fans from Tornillo were so hospitable and appreciative to all of us in District 2-3A who made the trip each Friday that we all began to rethink just how blessed we truly are.

Last Friday (October 30th) DC went above and beyond to serve the Tornillo players and coaches in a way that truly shows West Texas hospitality.

Superintendent Gary Davis shared that the community was so overwhelmed with emotion when they went to Tornillo last year .They realized how blessed they truly are to have the facilities and support from their community that others schools may not have.

Gary pointed out that even though it was homecoming for the Mustangs, it was more important to show Christ’s love and serve others than to win a football game. So in preparation for the game, the DC community has planned out a true showing of Christian love.

The Church of Christ provided snack bags and drinks for the team and coaches when they arrived. The First Baptist Church agreed to provide brisket tacos for the all the players, coaches and fans after the game.

The DC Jr. High Band moved to the visiting stands to play for the Coyotes while the Jr. high cheerleaders and parents pitched in to purchase Tornillo Coyote T-shirts as they cheered for them the entire game. The school rallied together to provide a blow up tunnel for the team while the Student Council and NHS members formed a victory line from the field house to the stadium.

The fans and coaches from both sides will always remember this night as something special and bigger than game.

What a great showing of love from the DC community as they reminded us that its truly not about us. Football season will come and go but the opportunity to show Christ’s love can change lives forever.

Author: Eric Martinez Sports Director and Pictures by Eric Woods / TownTalk Radio


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