Earlier this month, the Trump administration officially closed the doors of a “tent city” holding over 2,800 immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas. The closure comes after months of public pressure and local organizing. However, any celebration is short-lived. Just days after Tornillo’s closure, the administration announced its plan to increase bed space in another juvenile tent city in Homestead, Florida.
The tent city of Tornillo, about 35 miles from El Paso, Texas opened in November 2016. It later became a major point of controversy when it started being used to house an influx of unaccompanied minors and children who had been separated from their parents in the summer of 2018.
Since it opened, the Tornillo tent city experienced major pushback from the local community due to its military barracks-style conditions, as well as its limited access to medical and mental health care and educational opportunities for the children detained there.
Because Tornillo—and now Homestead—are classified as “emergency” or “influx” shelters, they skirt state child welfare guidelines. Although these sites are deemed “temporary,” the trauma and pain that the children suffer within these facilities is permanent. In “emergency” detention facilities, there are lower standards for staff vetting, training, youth education, and health, as they follow only a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines.
Despite Tornillo closing, the administration announced they expect to almost double their capacity at the Homestead, Florida facility from 1,350 children to 2,350.
Tax payers can be expected to pay a great deal to fund Homestead, as was the case with the Tornillo facility. The Texas site cost taxpayers approximately $144 million, amounting to about $400 per day to detain a child. Given the documented high cost of running Tornillo, the Homestead facility will be another costly bill for the American public.
The recent expansion of the Homestead facility represents this administration’s continued interest in increasing the detention rates at the peril of immigrant children, one of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. immigration system today.
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