The Trump administration is reportedly looking to erect “tent cities” at military posts around Texas to house thousands of migrant children who have arrived unaccompanied or have been forcibly separated from their parents at the border.
The report, from McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., bureau, indicates that the Department of Health and Human Services is scoping out a parcel of land on Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas, to assess whether it can set up a tent city that would hold an estimated 1,000-5,000 children.
HHS officials confirmed the plans and added that Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base were also potential sites for temporary shelters.
A key tenet of Donald Trump’s immigration policy is its “zero tolerance” mandate, which calls for immigration officials to separate migrant children from their parents as a punitive measure. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen enacted this policy, the number of migrant children detained by the U.S. government has risen more than 20 percent, McClatchy reports.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is responsible for the care of more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian and must routinely evaluate the needs and capacity of approximately 100 shelters, which are now 95 percent full.
One HHS official told the outlet that the “lack of parental protection, and the hazardous journey they take, make unaccompanied alien children vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.”
Unacknowledged in the HHS official’s quote is the very reason for that “lack of parental protection”: It is orchestrated by the U.S. government itself, which, aside from forcibly separating migrant families, often holds them in detention centers or shelters thousands of miles away from each other, with little to no contact.
This is the latest development in a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis built on the Trump administration’s directive of traumatizing children in order to punish their parents, many of whom are escaping violence and poverty in their home countries and seeking asylum in the U.S.
Among the tactics is one that echoes back to Nazi Germany, in which migrant parents are told by government officials that their kids will receive a bath, only to have them never return, Boston Globe reporter Liz Goodwin shared on Twitter:
The tent cities also hark back to a more current example, one demonstrated by none other than ex-Arizona sheriff and friend to the Trump administration, Joe Arpaio, a man jailed for his illegal detentions of undocumented immigrants until Trump pardoned him in August.
During his tenure as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio housed inmates on 7 acres of tents, exposing them to the sweltering Arizona heat. In remarks to an Italian-American group, Arpaio called it what was.
“I already have a concentration camp ... it’s called Tent City,” Arpaio said.
Previously, the Obama administration also detained children at the border, though its policy was to hold families together.