New hold­ing cen­ter for mi­grant chil­dren opens in Texas

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY NOMAAN MER­CHANT

CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas — A for­mer oil­field worker camp o a dirt road in ru­ral Texas has be­come the U.S. govern­ment’s new­est hold­ing cen­ter for de­tain­ing mi­grant chil­dren after they leave Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tions, where com­plaints of over­crowd­ing and filthy con­di­tions have sparked a world­wide out­cry.

In­side the wire fence that en­cir­cles the site are soc­cer fields, a gi­ant air-con­di­tioned tent that serves as a din­ing hall, and trail­ers set up for use as class­rooms and as places where chil­dren can call their fam­i­lies.

The long trail­ers once used to house work­ers in two-bed­room suites have been con­verted into 12-per­son dorms, with two pairs of bunk beds in each bed­room and the liv­ing room.

The Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices said about 225 chil­dren are be­ing held at the site in Carrizo Springs, with plans to ex­pand to as many as 1,300, mak­ing it one of the big­gest camps in the U.S. govern­ment sys­tem.

The govern­ment said the hold­ing cen­ter will give it much-needed ca­pac­ity to take in more chil­dren from the Bor­der Pa­trol and pre­vent their de­ten­tion in sta­tions like the one in Clint, Texas, where lawyers last month re­ported some 250 young­sters were be­ing held in cells with in­ad­e­quate food, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion. Of the chil­dren held at Carrizo Springs, 21 had pre­vi­ously been de­tained at Clint, HHS spokesman Mark We­ber said.

HHS said the Carrizo Springs lo­ca­tion is a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment for chil­dren while they wait to be placed with fam­ily mem­bers or spon­sors in the U.S.

But im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates and oth­ers liken such places to child prison camps and worry that the iso­lated lo­ca­tion 110 miles from San An­to­nio, the near­est ma­jor city, will make it more di cult to find lawyers to help the teenagers with their im­mi­gra­tion cases.

Ad­vo­cates have com­plained that HHS’ largest hold­ing cen­ters — a fa­cil­ity in Homestead, Florida, a con­verted Wal­mart in Brownsvill­e, Texas, and a now-closed tent camp at Tornillo, Texas — have trau­ma­tized chil­dren through over­crowd­ing and in­ad­e­quate sta ng.

“All of this is part of a morally bank­rupt sys­tem,” said Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro, a San An­to­nio Demo­crat.

There’s also the huge cost: an av­er­age of $775 per day for each child.

HHS plans to pay the non­profit Bap­tist Child and Fam­ily Ser­vices up to $300 mil­lion through Jan­uary to run the Carrizo Springs site.

AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY

In this Tues­day photo, im­mi­grants say the Pledge of Al­le­giance in a writ­ing class at the U.S. govern­ment s new­est hold­ing cen­ter for mi­grant chil­dren in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

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