They Paved Paradise And Put Up A (Refugee Tent City In A) Parking Lot
US Customs and Border Protection is rolling out some brand new tent cities in the Trump administration's war on asylum seekers, according to the Daily Beast. OK, maybe not tent "cities," exactly, since at the moment the tents appear to be restricted to five big, run-down Army surplus hospital tents in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station in El Paso, Texas. There, newly arrived asylum seekers are held for days at a time in seriously crappy conditions.
Reporters Justin Glawe and Justin Hamel note that CBP isn't letting reporters anywhere near the crappy old tents in the parking lot, so they had to "observe the operation through a telephoto lens from nearly a quarter-mile away." They saw that two of the tents had been erected in just the last week, and that the tents "are tightly surrounded by fences topped with barbed wire, leaving virtually no space for people to roam outside."
But Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (D-California) has been inside, earlier this month, and she told the reporters the conditions are terrible.
"One woman had a baby, a five-month-old baby and said she'd been there for five days. The baby had filthy clothes," Barragán said. "The situation is unhealthy. People are in a confined space, they're not getting showers, their clothes are dirty, babies are not getting Pampers like they should be. These ladies were crying and telling us their stories and it was just heartbreaking."
Barragán was banned from taking photos of migrants, but she described a desperate scene inside. The tents contained no cots and migrants slept on a temporary floor that covered the asphalt parking lot beneath, with babies sometimes sleeping on their parents' legs to avoid the hard floor.
Barragán added the tents were so crowded that she had to step over people just to move around inside, and that the food was the cheapest crap possible: "We're talking ramen and Cup of Noodles, Capri Suns and juice boxes, maybe a frozen burrito if you're lucky." Yes, now cue some wingnut ranting that lawbreakers have it entirely too good, so we need to stop letting them whoop it up like that.
She added that having to live in those tents just can't be pleasant at all, which of course is probably the point:
I was really taken aback by the smell. I was in there for five minutes and I just became nauseous, I hate to say it. It's just too many people for that size area and people hadn't had a shower for many days. Border Patrol told us it was their goal to get people a shower every three days, but the mother I spoke to there hadn't had one and she'd been there for five.
According to an Army press flack in 2016, the tents were designed to hold 148 people in cots, but there's no telling how many more you could cram in without cots! Glawe and Hamel note the tents have seen better days: "Some are tattered, with sections of fabric flapping in the wind."
The article suggests the tents in the parking lot may be part of the Trump administration's plan to deal with a large increase in people seeking asylum -- the numbers of families crossing to request asylum is up sharply from last year, even after the horrors of the family separation policy. And hey, why not follow up Trump's "invasion" rhetoric by dragging in the actual military?
Last Tuesday, officials from the Defense Department and Homeland Security met at the White House to discuss using military resources to construct and staff new tent cities in El Paso and Donna, Texas, NBC News reported. It's a favorite idea of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.
Of course, it's a weird sort of "invasion" when the people storming the beaches walk right up to the Border Patrol and ask for asylum. The tents are supposedly needed to deal with all the new arrivals, although of course Team Trump has been claiming the border was simply PACKED with migrants long before the current actual factual high numbers.
Rep. Barragán pointed out that other nearby border stations aren't packed with people:
Following her visit to El Paso, Barragán drove an hour and a half north to Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit an empty Border Patrol station there. "Why can't the migrants go there?" she said.
There's also well-founded suspicion that, as with earlier administration efforts to drive asylum seekers away, a good part of the "crisis" is the result of deliberate policy. Immigrant advocates point out there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for large numbers of asylum applicants to be stuffed into tents before being given a court date and then either released or sent on to an ICE detention center.
"One of my concerns is they're slowing down the process almost intentionally and they're helping create the appearance of this backlog," Barragán said. "I don't know this for sure, and I have nothing to point to other than our history of not getting truthful information from this administration and these agencies."
Gee, those Democrats sure are mean with their suspicions that Trump The Merciful might be acting in bad faith. The article notes that virtually everything else the administration has done on immigration -- family separation, the "metering" of asylum seekers at ports of entry, and multiple attempts to clamp down on the right of people to claim asylum in the first place -- have all been taken with the aim of "deterring" Central Americans from seeking asylum in the first place. So it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that holding people in cramped, stinky tents is just one more attempt to make America unattractive. Then again, all those other efforts to be more cruel than the conditions people are fleeing haven't stopped them, either.
Erika Andiola of immigrant advocacy group RAICES says if cruelty isn't working, maybe we should try treating people like human beings?
"The fact is that none of this has worked." said Andiola. "Conditions in Central America are terrible and people are willing to make the sacrifice to give their families a better future. It is up to us whether we welcome them in a humane way, or we torture them for no good reason."
Silly humanitarian! When has America ever needed a reason to torture people? Besides, now that Trump is moving on to his new stance, just ordering DHS to break the law, we'll have all the cruelty we can manage. It's a real growth industry!
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