El Paso, New Mexico lawmakers demand accountability from HHS and the Tornillo tent city

El Paso News

Lawmakers are urging transparency from the Department of Health and Human Services on the conditions at the so-called tent city in Tornillo and on its efforts to place migrant children with sponsors. 

Human rights advocates are planning another protest of the Tornillo facility this weekend while lawmakers are waiting for a response to a letter seeking more information about the facility.

“I went to tour the facility. These are not conditions for children to be in. They are sleeping ten to a tent. In bunk beds, military style,” said Texas State Rep. Cesar Blanco.

Blanco agrees with U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) who sent a letter to HHS asking for more information about the Tornillo facility.

The senators want more details about the new administration policies and why the center is expanding. The policies require sponsors be fingerprinted and show proper documentation. The letter said that policy is deterring sponsors from coming forward to take custody of the migrant children.

“On average, these kids are staying in tent city for about 59 days,” said Blanco.

Earlier this month, the incident commander of the facility said they are waiting for sponsors’ background checks to clear. 

“Our goal at the Department of Health and Human Services is to find a suitable sponsor for these children as quickly as possible,” said Mark Weber.

As we’ve reported those being housed in the Tornillo facility are unaccompanied children. These are not kids who were separated from their parents. HHS said children are provided with education and health care. 

This facility began operating in June, and since then it has been expanded and the closing date has been postponed to the end of the year.

Human rights advocates plan on protesting the tent city at a planned rally Saturday morning near the Tornillo port of entry. We will continues to bring you the latest on this story as it develops. 

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