Christmas in Tornillo: group of people spend the holidays protesting

El Paso News

A group of local protesters joined by people from across the country outside of Tornillo’s tent-like facility on Christmas Eve to speak up for social justice, they say, in a series of peaceful protests called “Christmas in Tornillo: The Occupation.” 

The protesters were speaking out against the housing of migrant children in the Tornillo facility where more than 2,000 children are waiting to be released. 

“It’s in my blood to want to fight for children that are incarcerated, that are just looking for freedom and wanting to be with family,” Denise Benavides, a protest organizer, said.

Benavides says she comes from Dallas where she is a community group organizer. She is joined by others from across the Borderland and other parts of the country to camp out at the Tornillo port of entry for the next nine days, including Christmas Day.

Benavides says protesting over the holidays is a small sacrifice to make to raise awareness in the community and nation.

The group is camped out in tents and recreational vehicles as they plan to spend the next week protesting.

“What we’re trying to do is show that this is part of a larger and broken system that is no longer serving any of us,” Elizabeth Vega, a protest organizer, said.

Members also say they are volunteering with local migrant housing shelters such as the Annunciation House to order and deliver food from local restaurants and essential items. This comes after hundreds of migrants were bussed into the Borderland, causing shelters like the Annunciation House to reach capacity.

“Material things and small donations can be brought to the Tornillo group, specifically us and we have a whole array of donations out there that we’re processing and sending out to wherever they need to go,” Juan Ortiz, a local protester and volunteer said. 

Ortiz says Annunciation House is one of the shelters they work with and said he could not say the other places where the migrants were staying due to privacy reasons.

According to a CNN report, a source with knowledge of operations in the Tornillo facility said the facility is no longer accepting children and it will close after the last child is released to either a sponsor or another facility run by the office of refugee resettlement. 

For now, the Tornillo protesters have a schedule of peaceful protest activities throughout the day going into the next week outside of the port of entry.

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