US: Teen seeking asylum compares Texas detention center to "prison" - PressFrom - US
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USTeen seeking asylum compares Texas detention center to "prison"

03:15  13 january  2019
03:15  13 january  2019 Source:   cbsnews.com

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Now converted into a migrant detention center called Casa Padre, the space holds around 1,500 migrant boys between the ages of 10 and 17, according to The New York Times, in what In a viral tweet thread, MSNBC contributor Jacob Soboroff compared the conditions of the facility to a prison .

The detention center is expected to open in 2018 and is expected to generate approximately million in annualized revenues, the company said, according to It will join three existing detention centers in the Houston metro area, making it a hub of immigration detainment and deportation.

Teen seeking asylum compares Texas detention center to "prison"© CBS News tornillo.png

Tornillo, Texas — The so-called "humanitarian crisis" at the border cited by the Trump administration includes the mass detention of migrant children. The U.S. currently houses more than 11,000 children who came to the U.S. alone in detention centers.

A tent city in Tornillo, Texas was built this summer as an emergency response to the surge in unaccompanied minors. Located an hour south of El Paso, the Tornillo detention was at one point the largest detention center in a network of more than 100 government run shelters for migrant children. At its peak, more than 2,800 children were housed there — which for comparison, was larger than all but one federal prisons.

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Its size created a massive need for staff and personnel and CBS News saw workers being bused in day and night. But there are questions about whether these workers were qualified or properly vetted to address the minor's mental well-being.

One former Tornillo worker, who asked that CBS News not identify her, said one day she was a guard, the next, a teacher. While she only worked there a short period of time, she said she faced lax screening when she applied, as well as only four hours of training.

Teen seeking asylum compares Texas detention center to "prison"© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. The Tornillo detention center.

"It was anybody. You were medical, you were teaching, you were transportation, you were logistics," she said.

In November, the Office of Inspector General found the Tornillo facility failed to conduct FBI fingerprint background checks. The report also found the facility's clinician staff levels were "dangerously low."

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Detention center in McAllen, Texas . Photo: Center for Border Protection. Reports have begun to emerge of horrifying conditions in these detention centers , several of which have been compared to jails. Detention centers holding men and boys have barely allowed access to journalists.

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The Department of Health and Human Services generally requires a ratio of one staffer to 12 children for mental health care. But Tornillo was operating at nearly five times that, or one for every 55 children.

Dr. Alma Perez, a case manager at Tornillo, said many employees were hired immediately after the camp started and many were part of what's called "direct care."

"I don't know whether they had any training or not, but those are the people that are in charge of the children 24 hours," she said.

Dr. Perez told CBS News she doesn't think those workers were qualified.

"By the time I left, I saw there were some mental health issues already," she said. "These children are being scarred for the rest of their lives. They've already been traumatized enough."

One 17-year-old, who didn't want to be named, spent two months at Tornillo after entering the U.S. legally from Honduras. He was seeking asylum, fleeing violence and poverty.

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The husband was sent to the Buffalo Federal Detention Center . The wife and child were taken to the Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania. Advocates call the center a humane approach to detaining undocumented immigrants in the midst of a labyrinthine process for asylum .

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He called the center a "prison," and said he would cry every night, praying to God to help him. He said he believes he was better off in Honduras because at Tornillo, he felt alone all the time.

He also described nightmares he would have, saying he has a dream where he's at the center, tries to reach the door and can't open it.

A report last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics found the impact of detention on a child's brain chemistry resembles child abuse and can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.

The academy's former president, Dr. Colleen Kraft, has made multiple trips to the border to visit children.

"Your whole system is on red alert, and with time that causes early heart disease, early lung disease, cancer, obesity," Dr. Kraft said.

The site is expected to close this month, but about 850 children remain there. The rest have been released to sponsor families or have been sent to different locations. HHS has increased the size of it's other temporary facility in Homestead, Florida, which already houses 1,250 migrant children. They recently requested an additional 1,000 beds.

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“In detention facilities that are consciously secluded from significant public view, immigrant women face serious threats, and our nation must act to ensure that they are protected from predators with significant "Many of these victims are refugees seeking asylum , fleeing prior traumatic experiences.

It seeks a .6 billion increase to expand detention and removals — and the GEO Group in April That compares to 9 per-person for a family detention center bed. The Trump administration's An Afghan woman was recently kept with her two children at a Texas detention lockdown for six

Camilo Pèrez Bustillo is with the Hope Border Institute and was part of an inspection team inside Tornillo in November.

Teen seeking asylum compares Texas detention center to "prison"© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. The Tornillo detention center

"There are important lessons to be drawn from its experience that need to be projected into the future. We need to ask ourselves, 'Do we want other Tornillos? Are we willing to make Tornillo the model?'" he said.

A new direction is what one asylum seeker is after. He's living with family while he waits for his day in court, and starts school on Tuesday. He said when he thinks about the other teenagers still there, he feels bad for them.

"I pray for them every night and hope they can get out as soon as possible," he said.

The U.S. government has allocated $1.3 billion this year on housing unaccompanied minors trying to enter the country.

HHS declined a request for a sit-down interview. In a statement, a spokesperson said in part, "The safety and care of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) is our top priority. As such, HHS has worked aggressively to meet its responsibility, by law, to provide shelter for UAC referred to its care by the Department of Homeland Security. By activating temporary shelters – and having potential shelters on reserve status – ORR has the capacity to respond to ever-changing levels of referrals and in this case an emergency situation."

It goes on to say, "Our goal is to close Tornillo as quickly but as safely as possible – for both the UAC and all the personnel who have worked faithfully for months providing excellent care for these vulnerable children."

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Detained in a California lockup with hundreds of other immigrants seeking asylum, Duglas Cruz faced a choice. He could content himself with a jailhouse diet that he said left him perpetually hungry. Or he could labor in the prison's kitchen to earn money to buy extra food at the commissary. Cruz went to work. But his $1-a-day salary at the privately run Adelanto Detention Facility did not stretch far. A can of commissary tuna sold for $3.25. That is more than four times the price at a Target store near the small desert town of Adelanto, about two hours northeast of Los Angeles.

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