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A Tour of a Shelter for Detained Child Migrants

Child detention camps have become a big business in Southern Texas.

Ginny Dang

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Journalists Jacob Soboroff and Tom Llamas, on Wednesday, took a look inside a shelter inside former Walmart Super center, called Casa Padre, on the tip of Southern Texas, in Brownsville.

Since last December, the Trump administration started to separate families to combat illegal immigration. According to data collected by The New York Times, more than 700 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since October, including more than 100 children under the age of four.

Two weeks ago, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, was denied access to the former Walmart Super center where detained migrant children were held. This unannounced tour to gain inside into Walmart shelter has drawn national attention after his team livestreamed the tour on Facebook.

On Wednesday, Southwest Key programs, federal official and shelter officers opened a 90-minute media tour for several reporters and journalists.

 

The shelter houses nearly 1,500 undocumented boys between the ages of 10 and 17 who have been separated from their parents. Casa Padre is the largest licensed childcare facility in the country which is run by trained staff by a nonprofit organization, Southwest Key. Every room has four to five boys. The children are only allowed two hours a day for outdoor activities and spend the rest of their days inside a former Walmart. They also have to take classes of American history and watch Moana, approximately receiving classroom instruction for six hours a day from Monday to Friday, yet simultaneously, they’re in custody all the time. It is armed with an in-house team of 48 medical staffs and three on-call physicians.

Last year, an officer at another shelter in Brownsville yelled at a child who had punched a wall. Some other cases in 2016 in the Cameron County town reported that children had to sit down for four hours as a form of discipline, some others were slapped in the hands with a ruler.

This shelter, Casa Padre, has been cited 13 times for violations or deficiencies by state regulators since its establishment in March 2017, but Southwest Key and federal officials did not mention such violation on the tour on Wednesday.

 

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Ginny is a junior Psychology major at Trinity College. She aspires to cultivate the spirit of a journalist and an essayist in her quest to become a writer.

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