The Trump administration is seeking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to house the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children currently being held in detention, reports McClatchy.
Citing federal officials and “other sources familiar with the plans,” McClatchy reported on Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for the long-term detention of undocumented minors, is planning to tour Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso in the coming weeks. HHS is considering building a tent city at the base to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children.
HHS officials confirmed to McClatchy that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.
According to the report, current federal housing for unaccompanied minors has reached 95 percent capacity, with approximately 10,000 children being held by HHS.
That number is expected to grow in the coming months as the Trump administration ramps up its efforts to prosecute any adult who enters the U.S. without authorization and to separate them from their children.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that HHS officials were considering using military bases to house unaccompanied minors.
Last week, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley attempted to visit a privately run youth detention center in Brownsville, TX, where he was turned away and had the police called on him. In a statement to Splinter, an HHS official insisted that Merkley was turned away “for the safety, security and dignity of the children being cared for there.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement 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.”