The Trump administration is moving forward with plans to build a so-called “tent city” in Texas to house about 450 children who have been forcibly separated from their parents as part of a “zero tolerance” policy at the border, according to NBC News.
The report says the administration will erect camps in Tornillo, Texas and will be built by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The number of migrant children being held by the government without their parents has surged by 20 percent since the administration began to enforce the policy, according to McClatchy.
Nearly 1,800 families have been separated at the U.S.–Mexico border between October 2016 and February of this year, according to Reuters.
NBC News reported that over 570 unaccompanied children were in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol as of last week.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who unveiled the administration’s zero-tolerance policy last month, directed border agents to separate children from their parents at the border and prosecute the adults. The administration has framed the new policy as a deterrent to stop migrants from attempting to enter the country.
The United Nations human rights office earlier this month demanded that the Trump administration “immediately halt” its policy of tearing migrant children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring that the practice “always constitutes a child rights violation.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on Tuesday that the office is “deeply concerned” by the U.S. government’s decision to separate migrant families, arguing that the policy “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
“Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child,” Shamdasani declared, noting that the practice seems to have been in effect since October and has been applied “to both asylum-seekers and other migrants in vulnerable situations.”
“The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns,” she continued, emphasizing that the policy “runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”
“The majority of people arriving at the U.S.’s southern border have fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—in many cases either because of rampant insecurity and violence, or because of violations of a range of other rights, such as health, education, and housing,” she noted. “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense.”
Shamdasani also pointed out that although “the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the U.S., it is the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The convention explicitly states that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding,” and has been active for nearly three decades.