Donald Trump Pitches Tent As Government Erects First Kinder-Camp
We had plenty of warning it was coming, but it's still horrifying to know it's here: The New Cruelty is preparing to assemble its first "tent city" for children taken away from their parents under Donald Trump's family-separation policy.
The camp will be built outside the border crossing station in Tornillo, Texas, near El Paso, and is expected to house 360 children at first, with more to come; the camp will have an initial capacity of 450. Expect it to get bigger.
The first kids are expected to be entented in the next few days, and HHS has been evaluating other potential locations at military bases elsewhere in Texas. The government says it needs the tent city because, gosh, surprise, there's an overflow of children now that they're charging all border-crossers as criminals, including a distressing number of people who arrive at ports of entry and request asylum -- there's been such a glut of horrifying immigration news this week that we haven't even mentioned Wednesday's Texas Tribune story about a grandmother who hasn't seen her severely disabled grandson after ICE separated them 10 months ago.
An HHS spokesperson portrayed the tent city as just a routine part of the agency's doing its job:
[HHS], with the support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has selected Tornillo Land Port of Entry as a temporary shelter location for unaccompanied alien children cared for by HHS' Administration for Children and Families [...] HHS is legally required to provide care and shelter for all unaccompanied alien children referred by DHS, and works in close coordination with DHS on the security and safety of the children and community.
It's so blandly, bureaucratically normal. Nothing big. Just keeping the children safe. After ICE takes them away from their parents like the Bible says we have to. Bureaucracy is one way of normalizing crimes, as we all remember from Vietnam's "kill ratios" and the harmless clerks who made sure the German railways were paid for each piece of human cargo transported to the camps.
But come now, these are not concentration camps. They're simply tent cities, and lots of people have lived in tents in the desert in summer, like Joe Arpaio's prisoners and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe the kids will be in those fancy air-conditioned tents the soldiers got. Maybe not -- we don't know. Hey, maybe if the tents are air conditioned, Texas will need more coal-powered utility plants, so it would be a win-win for Trump and company.
NBC News notes that this wouldn't be the first time the government has used tents for temporary housing -- they were used by Customs and Border Protection during the peak of the unaccompanied minor crisis of 2014-16, although NBC News also notes that this new surge is entirely the government's choice: Jeff Sessions made this happen, with Donald Trump's approval, no matter how many times they lie and blame Democrats. We can't let them lie and say Obama "did the same thing." No president has done this. Not for the sake of scaring refugees.
El Paso area leaders have protested the new tent city, calling on the government to stop.
"This week we're experiencing 100- to 105-degree weather," said state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. "You are talking about placing children in tents in the desert regions of West Texas? It is totally inhumane and it is outrageous. It should be condemned by anyone who has a moral sense of responsibility." [...] "
It really doesn't matter where the tent cities are constructed — we shouldn't be doing this," said U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso. "We shouldn't be separating children from their parents."
As you may recall, the Brownsville, Texas, child-warehousing facility HHS recently allowed reporters to visit is at least staffed by licensed childcare workers -- at least, licensed to Texas standards. The building, a former Walmart, is subject to the same licensing and inspection by the state that any other childcare facility would.
But in a detail that we fear has been overlooked by too many reports, MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff pointed out that unlike "Casa Padre" (Hey presto! No casa! No padre!), the tent cities will be on federally owned land. That means no state inspectors. That means no requirement that anyone supervising the kids has a state license.
Who'll be looking after the children in the tent cities? The government isn't telling. Maybe if the kids are cared for by former EPA staffers canned for saying climate change is real, they'll at least get some science education.
But as the New Cruelty marches onward -- if we don't throw ourselves bodily in the way -- we're going to hear more stories of grandparents wondering why they can't see their profoundly disabled grandchildren. Or of heroes like Antar Davidson, who quit his job at an Arizona shelter for migrant children rather than follow an inhuman instruction. Mr. Davidson speaks Portuguese, and was told to tell three Brazilian siblings, aged 16, 10, and 6, who had just arrived at the shelter after being taken from their parents that they weren't allowed to hug each other:
The children were "huddled together, tears streaming down their faces," he said.
Officials had told them their parents were "lost," which they interpreted to mean dead. Davidson said he told the children he didn't know where their parents were, but that they had to be strong.
"The 16-year-old, he looks at me and says, 'How?'" Davidson said. As he watched the youth cry, he thought, "This is not healthy."
The Tucson shelter where Davidson worked until this week, Estrella del Norte, is owned by Southwest Key, the same nonprofit that operates the Brownsville shelter with no padres. A spokesperson for Southwest Key "disputed those allegations Wednesday and said the shelter meets state licensing requirements, including for staffing ratios and training."
Even if you forget the name Antar Davidson, remember what he did. He's just one of what's sure to be a steady stream of people who decide not to be part of the machinery of the New Cruelty. Antar Davidson walked away from Omelas (although Trump's America is far from the near-paradise of Ursula LeGuin's fable). We all may need to.
But before leaving this sinking nation becomes the only option, help if you can. This San Antonio nonprofit is raising money to provide migrant families with attorneys, to help them navigate this nightmare. There's also a separate fund to pay parents' bond, if they can get it.
Stay awake. Stay angry. What our government is doing is as evil as anything we've seen it do. We have to stop this.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.