Beto O'Rourke Calls On Public To Pressure Trump Administration To Close Child Immigrant Detention Centers

Sarah Haider

Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas on Saturday asked Americans to demand from the Trump administration to shut down the child migrant camp that is currently being run by the Department of Health and Human Services in Tornillo, Texas.

According to a report by Mother Jones, there are more than 2,500 children currently being kept in the child migrant camp, most of whom arrived at the border unaided. The children are being held there because of the controversial policy of the Trump administration that has made the procedure of releasing minors to adult sponsors more complicated.

A report by NPR said that most of the migrant children are male teenagers from Central America, who traveled to the border alone. Many decided to seek asylum in the United States in hopes of a better life as they were struggling with poverty in their home countries. Others escaped gangs to ultimately find work and better educational opportunities in the U.S.

O'Rourke urged people to pressure the administration, and called for the type of "widespread activism" that helped force the administration earlier this year to end its policy of separating migrant families who enter the country illegally.

"The public pressure that you brought to bear after Father's Day that ended the practice of family separation — we need that same pressure again, brought to bear on this administration, to close Tornillo," O'Rourke said.

Per the Mother Jones report, other politicians who joined O 'Rourke included California Rep. Judy Chu, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, all Democrats. Both Merkley and O'Rourke are considering running for the presidential election in 2020.

In November, a report by the HHS inspector general revealed that the Tortillo camp was being operated by a nonprofit organization called BCFS Health and Human Services, and it wasn't carrying out the necessary background checks on employees. The report further said that "the level of mental health care for the children at the camp was especially worrisome."

Sen. Jeff Merkley also took to his Twitter to criticize the camp and called it a "child prison camp." Per the report, he claimed that when members of congress asked to speak to the children, their request was denied.

O'Rourke, on the other hand, said that he visited the facility and spoke to some children, the report said.