Children are being rounded up in the dead of night and sent to a huge Texas tent city, where they have no access to education and few legal protections.
Hundreds of unaccompanied minors have been ripped from well-regulated shelters in the dead of night and dumped into a mostly unregulated desert tent city, according to a new report by The New York Times.
Thanks to the Trump administration's cruel immigration policies, the population of unaccompanied minor children being detained by the U.S. has skyrocketed fivefold since last year. To accommodate this surge, children are being moved out of licensed shelters and into a large desert encampment in Tornillo, Texas.
At the licensed shelters, which are monitored by state welfare agencies, kids received schooling and even regular legal assistance. But those basic services get stripped away from the children who are moved to Tornillo.
Understandably, many children don't want to be put in that position. That's why they are being smuggled away in the dead of night, shelter workers told the Times — to prevent escape attempts.
The move can be downright traumatizing, the Times reports. The children are reportedly woken in the middle of the night with little to no prior notice. Emergency contacts are written onto belts and strapped to the frightened minors, who are then loaded onto buses and taken away.
In recent weeks, over 1,600 migrant children have been discreetly moved to the camp in Tornillo. The facility was only designed to hold 400 people when it opened in June, but was expanded earlier this month to hold close to 4,000 individuals.
Services like education have not been expanded, however, and the camp is unregulated save for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human services.
At real shelters for migrant children, schooling is a requirement. The kids are guaranteed access to six hours of education across multiple subjects, five days per week — essentially the same kind of education that all kids in America get — and this education is never to lapse for more than two weeks.
But children in Tornillo could be left in the tent city for months, according to the Times. The closest thing to education there comes in the form of workbooks, which the children are not even required to complete.
Beyond the lack of schooling, the picture of Tornillo gets even sadder. Kids are kept in tents in groups of 20 and sleep in bunks.
"The longer that children remain in custody, the more likely they are to become anxious or depressed," the Times reports. "Advocates said those concerns are heightened at a larger facility like Tornillo, where signs that a child is struggling are more likely to be overlooked, because of its size."
If it all sounds too cruel to imagine, that is probably the point. The Trump administration and other Republican officials across the country are pursuing policies that inflict as much pain and damage as possible on immigrants — especially children who are the most vulnerable.
Trump officials purposefully devised policies that separated children from parents this summer, despite claiming no such policies existed. Meanwhile, the Texas Education Agency banned state funds from being used to educate migrant children. The agency is operated by Mike Morath, an appointee of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Family separation isn't the only reason for the surging population of detained migrant children, the Times notes. Many of the children were unaccompanied minors who crossed the border alone.
But the U.S. isn't seeing more border crossings than usual. Instead, the Times reports, minor children are having a harder time than usual being placed with a relative or other sponsor — because many of those sponsors are undocumented immigrants themselves, who fear coming forward because they are being increasingly targeted for deportation by the Trump administration.
The Trump administration has also stopped granting asylum to many women fleeing domestic violence in their home countries, because they do not meet the “credible fear” requirement. Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering mandatory detentions for all asylum seekers that could leave people stranded in inhumane detention centers for years.
Taken individually, any one of these policies would be a heartless dereliction of our duty as Americans and human beings to help people in need.
Collectively, these moves paint a picture of a malicious plot to maximize the suffering of immigrants in the hopes of driving them away from America.