Hundreds of children in immigrant shelters across the U.S. have been awakened in the middle of the night and transported via bus to the federal government’s tent city in Tornillo, Texas, The New York Times reported Sunday.
> Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.
> But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.
As the number of migrant children in federal custody has increased fivefold since last year, officials have struggled to accommodate the nearly 13,000 detained children, The Times said.
The average time children spend in custody has almost doubled, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, from 34 days to 59.
> To deal with the surging shelter populations, which have hovered near 90 percent of capacity since May, a mass reshuffling is underway and shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of children are being shipped from shelters to West Texas each week, totaling more than 1,600 so far.
> The camp in Tornillo operates like a small, pop-up city, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border, complete with portable toilets. Air-conditioned tents that vary in size are used for housing, recreation and medical care. Originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, it expanded in September to be able to house 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.