Border wall prototypes, metal cages holding human beings, and now tent cities erected in the Texas heat to house migrant children – President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has moved from the abstract of campaign promises to real and tangible hardships for thousands of immigrants, exacerbating an increasingly dysfunctional immigration system.
Journalists have enjoyed little access to the tent city erected in Tornillo, Texas, which reportedly holds about 400 migrant children at present but could be expanded to accommodate up to 4,000.
Because of the tightly controlled images, we don’t know what the living conditions on a day-to-day basis are. We do know that the Tornillo detention center currently holds about 400 children, according to first-hand reports, and that the area is experiencing sweltering heat—the high temperatures every day this week are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There appear to be air-conditioning units attached to the tents.
The camp of 16 cloth tents – constructed to provide shelter for the influx of children handed over to government care by Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which has separated at least 2,300 children from their parents – reportedly has an intake facility, outdoor portable toilets, a medical clinic, and space set aside for the children to play soccer.
In addition to Getty Images photographs that show children in brightly colored T-shirts walking through a compound of 16 large cloth tents, the Department of Health and Human Services released images showing interiors of two tents, one with 10 bunk beds and one with folding tables and chairs.
While government officials have touted the allegedly plush nature of the detention centers holding now-unaccompanied migrant children, pediatricians and immigration advocates have warned that Trump’s policy will cause potentially irreparable harm to these children, as Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explained to NPR:
"By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children. The long-term concern of what we call toxic stress is that brains are not developed efficiently or effectively," Kraft says. "And these children go on to have behavior problems, to have long-term medical problems."
The president signed an Executive Order Wednesday feigning an end to the practice of separating families, but it remains unlikely to pass muster in light of the 1997 Flores agreement, which dictates that immigrant children can be detained for no longer than 20 days – with or without their parents.