Roughly 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been quietly removed from shelters and transferred to a temporary tent city in Texas as part of a mass reshuffling by the Trump administration. Permanent shelters are at full capacity, with 12,800 undocumented children currently in federal custody after crossing the border alone or being separated from their families.
Each week, children are being transported from some of the 100+ shelters across the country to the Texas tent city in the middle of the night. According to the New York Times, children are not notified about their move to the tent city ahead of time, traumatizing children who were not given time to emotionally prepare or say goodbye to their friends. Further, transporting migrant children in the middle of the night increases children’s vulnerability to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.
Tent City is a temporary shelter located it Tornillo, a border town southeast of El Paso. Tent City was first opened in June and housed nearly 200 children. By the end of September, the temporary shelter expanded from having a maximum capacity of 200 beds to 4000 beds. Currently, roughly 3,800 children are housed in Tent City where they are put in groups of 20, are separated by gender and sleep lined up in bunks. Although Tent City offers air conditioning and medical care in the tents, children do not have access to schools, have very limited access to legal services and receive inadequate protection against physical abuse, sexual assault and/or emotional torment. There are almost as many children in Tent City as there are residents in a nearby town of Tornillo.
Some of the children are detained due to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. This summer that policy was carried out through family separation, under which parents were immediately sent into criminal custody while children were classified as “unaccompanied alien children.” However most of the children now residing in shelters crossed the border alone.
Currently, the number of detained migrant children has significantly increased and is at a record number even though the number of border crossings have remained steady. The increase in detained migrant children is due to a new sponsor requirement by the Department of Homeland Security which states that sponsors who are willing to care for detained migrant children must submit their fingerprints and information. Since some potential-sponsors are undocumented, the strict new guidelines mean they are less likely to risk applying. A number of those who did apply have been arrested on immigration charges.
Newswire Sources: The New York Times 9/30/18, 10/1/18; The Huffington Post 10/01/18, 6/18/18, Feminist Newswire 6/20/18