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Jeff Merkley: ‘Thousands of Children are Living in Tent Prison’



Once the midterm elections passed, attention turned away from migrants seeking asylum at the border and many of the troops who were sent to the border near election time, are now returning home. Sadly, issues at the border are far from being resolved. This week, a delegation of US officials made a trip to Tornillo, Texas to check in on the children of the asylum seekers. They were astonished at what they saw.

Ralph Alswang

The group included Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Judy Chu (D-CA). The group was performing a welfare check on the 2,700 children being held.

According to Merkley:

“I just left the tent city at Tornillo. It is a child prison camp. They refused our request to speak with the children who are held there. The vast majority of these children have parents or other family members who are ready to sponsor them in the US, but the Trump Administration has deliberately created a bottleneck so that it’s difficult for the children to be released. They’re also threatening to hand over any undocumented family members to ICE, discouraging sponsors from coming forward. So thousands of children are living in a tent prison. In the desert. For months on end.”

The tent city is incredibly expensive, it has already cost the US government $144 million. Beto O’Rourke said, “This is a great deal for the contractor, a terrible deal for the kids who are trapped inside and an awful deal for the U.S. taxpayer. Unless things change, I’m afraid that the contract will be renewed and we will spend hundreds of millions more.”

Tent city officials have been writing numbers on the children’s arms with a permanent marker. The method, used to track the children, is dehumanizing and brings to mind some of the darkest moments in world history.

The group plans on raising the issue when Congress convenes with a democratic majority in January.