Trump Administration Planning To Construct Tent City For 5,000 Immigrant Children
In light of the increase in unaccompanied immigrant children held by the Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.), the Trump administration is finalizing plans to construct a tent city that could shelter up to 5,000 immigrant children. These are children who have been separated from their parents after illegal entry into the United States and then held in detention centers awaiting legal proceedings, McClatchy DC Bureau reports.
The government is eyeing military posts such as Fort Bliss in El Paso, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, all in Texas, as potential sites to cite the tent city to accommodate unaccompanied immigrant kids. H.H.S. has not decided on the definite use of these sites yet, but officials will be visiting them each in the coming weeks to ascertain their suitability for the project.
“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official.
HSS Immigration Policy
The United States has always sheltered unaccompanied immigrant children, but these centers have become inadequate under the Trump administration due to new immigration policies. Under the new administration, the number of migrant children held in custody without their parents has increased 20 percent. The increase is largely due to the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy which forcefully separates children from their families if they attempt to cross the border illegally. The children and parents are kept in separate detention centers as they await their fate.
According to the McClatchy report, the H.H.S. is “responsible for the care of more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian and must routinely evaluate the needs and capacity of approximately 100 shelters, which are now 95 percent full.”
H.H.S. policy has been to allow for the release of children to sponsors who then house and care for them while their immigration cases are sorted out. Usually, the sponsors are family members or close friends. But just last week the White House announced a new policy to fingerprint and run immigration checks on any family members that come forward to sponsor the children.
“ORR (the Office of Refugee Resettlement) is going to begin submitting fingerprints to DHS,” an ORR policy official said on the call, according to a recording, obtained by McClatchy. “And DHS is going to do a biographic criminal check of the national database also for wants and warrants. And they’re also going to do an immigration status check. This is a big change for us to be sending the information and fingerprints to DHS.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement has tried to justify separating children from immigrant parents facing prosecution as necessary to protect them from child predators.
“The lack of parental protection, and the hazardous journey they take, make unaccompanied alien children vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse,” an H.H.S. official said.
Regarding the new policy to fingerprint and check the immigration status of any potential child sponsors, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed the policy was necessary to close loopholes that result in children failing to show up for immigration hearings.
“It can take months and sometimes years to adjudicate those claims once they get into the federal immigration court system, and they often fail to appear for immigration proceedings,” Rosenstein said. “In fact, approximately 6,000 unaccompanied children each year fail to appear when they’ve been summoned. They’re released and they don’t show up again.”
Anger at New Immigration Policies
Several human rights advocacy groups derided the idea of housing children in tents. They say it is not only expensive to keep children apart from their parents; it is also inhumane and inflicts a negative emotional toll on the kids.
“Detaining children for immigration purposes is never in their best interest and the prospect of detaining kids in tent cities is horrifying,” said Clara Long, U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch. “US authorities should focus on keeping families together, ensuring due process in asylum adjudications and protecting the rights of children.”
Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general under President Barack Obama, pointed out that Trump’s new zero-tolerance is also more costly. As McClatchy reported, Fresco said it’s much more expensive to separate children from their families and house them in two different facilities.
“The point is separating families is not only controversial, it’s also inordinately more expensive,” Fresco said.
Twitter was full of outrage over the tent city idea.
How is our Congress letting them get away with this atrocity?!?
“… considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the plans.” https://t.co/XqZceTvOq0
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) June 12, 2018
Here is where the horrible "tent city for children" will be constructed by the Trump Administration. https://t.co/oNOQLBb6u5
— Trial Lawyer Richard (@TrialLawyerRich) June 15, 2018
hey remember when trump pardoned a guy who proudly described running tent city prisons as "concentration camps" https://t.co/UltpmE4tJ7
— Patrick Blanchfield (@PatBlanchfield) June 12, 2018