The inside of a child migrant detention facility is completely heartbreaking
More than 700 immigrant children have been separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border since October. This inhumane move is all thanks to the Trump administration’s sweeping “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to refugees entering the United States at the southwest border. We’re getting a first look at the detention facilities that these children are being sent to, and it’s horrifying, shocking, and all around completely dehumanizing.
Jacob Soboroff, an MSNBC correspondent, was one of the first journalists to step inside an all-boys detention center in Brownsville, Texas. He took to Twitter to share the conditions that these children are living in.
I’m a part of the first group of journalists to go into the shelter for detained child migrants in Brownsville Texas since the zero tolerance separation policy was announced. 1000+ boys here.
Going in right now.
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
First of all, there are murals of Donald Trump everywhere which is the stuff of pure dictator propaganda. One was accompanied by the president’s words: “Sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
Just finished tour, don’t even know where to start.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
One of the first things you notice when you walk into the shelter — no joke — a mural of Trump with the quote “sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
Presidential murals everywhere. But that one is 1st.
The detention center is run by a non-profit. It’s located inside a former Walmart store and is completely overcrowded. “Nearly 1,500 boys 10-17 in here now,” Soboroff explained. “They’re supposed to sleep four to room. Nearly every room has 5. They’ve received a variance from the state because of overcrowding.”
This shelter, Casa Padre, is the largest licensed childcare facility of its kind in the country. Nearly 1,500 boys 10-17 in here now. They’re supposed to sleep four to room. Nearly every room has 5. They’ve received a variance from the state because of overcrowding.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
Children are only allowed to be outside for two hours a day. They have one hour of free time. Contrary to Trump’s claims, none of the boys are members of MS-13 gangs.
Officials here said they’ve never had an MS-13 member here, ever.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
Kids here get only two hours a day to be outside in fresh air.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
One hour of structured time.
One hour of free time.
The rest of the day is spent inside a former Wal Mart.
“Moments after we walked in a shelter employee asked us to smile at hundreds of detained migrant kids in line for a meal because ‘they feel like animals in a cage being looked at,’” Soboroff noted.
Moments after we walked in a shelter employee asked us to smile at hundreds of detained migrant kids in line for a meal because “they feel like animals in a cage being looked at.”— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 13, 2018
The MSNBC journalist added that the staff seems to genuinely want these kids to experience better conditions. However, it doesn’t really seem like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
“I believe the worker looking after these kids who said she’d like to see a day when they don’t have to do this,” Soboroff wrote. “But things are moving in the wrong direction — capacity is 1497 and tonight 1469 boys will sleep here.”
He said the conditions the boys are living in are the equivalent of incarceration.
This mega-shelter is run by trained staff — a nonprofit.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
I believe the worker looking after these kids who said she’d like to see a day when they don’t have to do this.
But things are moving in the wrong direction — capacity is 1497 and tonight 1469 boys will sleep here.
I have been inside a federal prison and county jails.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
This place is called a shelter but these kids are incarcerated.
No cells and no cages, and they get to go to classes about American history and watch Moana, but they’re in custody.
Coming up on @allinwithchris next.
Trump is considering placing immigrant children in “tent cities” on a military base in Texas. Soboroff noted that those “tent cities” would not have to be licensed child care facilities, which puts these kids in an incredibly vulnerable, potentially dangerous situation.
Something I just told @chrislhayes: this place is a licensed child care facility with trained staff. There are 26 operated by the same nonprofit, @SouthwestKey.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
Its president told me that potential new tent cities that will be on federal property *don’t* have to be licensed.
Here’s some pictures from his visit. Yes, this is pretty much a prison for a massive group of children who have done absolutely nothing wrong.
Starting to get some handout photos from our tour with @HHSGov.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
Here’s the Trump mural I mentioned to @chrislhayes inside the shelter for incarcerated child migrants.
Also their beds and the towels they shower with. pic.twitter.com/EPEQ1VGAAF
Here are some photos of the boys in the cafeteria.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
This is not a school cafeteria.
Hundreds called to eat at a time on rotating shifts.
When I told @chrislhayes it felt like a prison or jail, I was thinking about this. pic.twitter.com/feZI46SPAc
It is inconceivable that each boy is given less than 40 square feet to live in.
One final thing that stuck out: this former WalMart is 250,000 square feet.— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 14, 2018
The boys have under *40* square feet of living space each.
Lights go out in there at 9PM every night.
Will have more tomorrow on @TODAYshow, @Morning_Joe & @MSNBC.
Thanks for sharing this story.
Soboroff also shot a Today Show segment and revealed even more of the detention center’s bleak realities.
“The kids here don’t get out much, spending almost 22 hours a day indoors,” he said. “They also don’t talk very much with their parents either and we were told cases of psychological distress is also something they see here.” Some children are currently being medicated for mental health issues.
“The kids here don’t get out much – spending almost 22 hours a day indoors.”- @jacobsoboroff is one of the first journalists invited inside America’s largest detention facility for migrant children pic.twitter.com/g6EiwFBdBY
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 14, 2018
So, what can we do right now to help? There’s a couple of things. You can call your senators and ask that they demand Congress end Trump’s family separation policy. Head to this site to find your representative’s contact information.
You can also reach out to the Department of Homeland Security directly at 202-282-8495 and leave a complaint. Or, give U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a call to register your concerns at 1-888-351-4024.
Separating children from their parents is inhumane and unnecessary.
Call your Senator and demand they tell DHS to stop.https://t.co/XakMdYAO3N
— ACLU (@ACLU) May 19, 2018
Alida Garcia, an organizer who focuses on immigration issues, offered a list of a whole bunch of organizations who are on the ground now, trying to help these families. “Feeling helpless about the family separations at the border?” she wrote. “Guess what, there are many people & organizations who need your help & electeds who need to do more.”
Here's @netargv's fundraiser to help volunteers who go to Mexico to assist these families outside. My friend @lorellapraeli went down there last week & met a family who had been outside for 17 days. They need Diapers, Underwear, Bras, Baby wipes, etc.https://t.co/CspXXhjbCQ— Alida Garcia (@leedsgarcia) June 9, 2018
The Texas Civil Rights Project has been able to try to bring some oversight into the separations/prosecutions in the Rio Grande Valley - they've put out stories of parents who have been separated & have been reporting the volume of separations. They need help to cover more 8/— Alida Garcia (@leedsgarcia) June 9, 2018
...proceedings in more courthouses so that litigators trying to stop this have a better sense as to what is happening as this process lacks transparency across the board. You can help @TXCivilRights do more by supporting them here (also follow them) 9/ :https://t.co/aU4hITiOZX— Alida Garcia (@leedsgarcia) June 9, 2018
One organization that works with parents in detention centers in Texas is @RAICESTEXAS - they have a bond fund to help reunited families and fight their cases from the outside. You can support that bond fund here: https://t.co/0zNsFdAp4q 11/— Alida Garcia (@leedsgarcia) June 9, 2018
Hopefully we call all band together and very loudly let the Trump administration know that this situation is awful, inhuman, and completely, completely unacceptable.