The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the direction of the Trump administration, opened a tent camp called the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry in June of 2018 used specifically to house migrant children. It has widely been referred to as a tent camp because the children held there are housed in large, climate-controlled canvas tents.
The tent camp was opened as a result of the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” prosecution initiative wielded against immigrants. This initiative condoned and encouraged the separation of children from their parents in order to discourage other immigrants from trying to enter the country.
At least 2,500 kids were separated from their parents before Trump was forced to reverse this initiative later in June and reunite families. However, the HHS is still working to reunite these families after their forced separations and are actually behind schedule on the deadline imposed on them to reunite migrant families. And according to the Washington Post, even though they have stopped separating families, HHS has still taken in greater numbers of underage migrants than ever before.
On Tuesday, the department announced that they would be expanding the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry to be able to better accommodate the influx of underage migrant children crossing the border. The Tornillo camp holds older children while younger children are funneled into more permanent shelters. The HHS alleges that the children and teens have access to a full range of services including recreational and educational activities at Tornillo.
While the tent camp currently has 1,200 beds, the HHS plans to more than triple that number so that they can hold at least 3,800 children there. HHS already has 12,800 minors in its custody, which is its highest number ever.
“‘Family separations’ resulting from the zero tolerance policy ended on June 20, 2018 and are not driving this need,” said Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for HHS’s Administration for Children and Families, in a statement released to the public.
Wolfe also went on to explain that 1,400 of the 3,800 beds would be kept on reserve status and that the Trump administration has requested the Pentagon to open more camps and shelters, suggesting that these migrant children should be housed on military bases, but they have not yet received approval to do so nor broken ground on any new facilities.
Located in the desert just outside of El Paso, Texas, the camp will remain open at least throughout the rest of 2018.