A facility to house over 1,000 undocumented children is set to open Monday in Carrizo Springs, Texas—just days after almost 250 groups called on Congress to decriminalize migration and chart a new course for the country's border policies.
The Carrizo Springs concentration camp, which was initially built by Stratton Oilfield Systems as worker housing, will be run by Texas non-profit BCFS Health and Human Services for the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). BCFS runs child detention centers for the federal government in Tornillo, Texas, roughly 489 miles from the Carrizo Springs facility.
HHS spokesperson Victoria Palmer confirmed to Common Dreams that the agency was using Carrizo Springs as a camp to hold children.
"All children will be sheltered in hard-sided structures at the Carrizo Springs facility," said Palmer. "Semi-permanent soft-sided structures will be used for support operations."
BCFS, the company that ran the immigrant children's prison in Tornillo, Texas, is busily preparing a new prison for immigrant kids in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The county is repairing the road into the camp. The first children are expected to arrive this Monday. pic.twitter.com/wGWzP8bBFi— Foxxita #Vote2020 (@Foxxita) June 20, 2019
On Wednesday, groups and organizations from across the country urged lawmakers in an open letter (pdf) to pass legislation that would undo Clinton-era laws the groups say is a major hindrance to real immigration reform. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, passed in 1996, the groups say, "put a chokehold on pathways to legalization and naturalization by massively expanding the number of disqualifying criminal grounds for legal permanent residents and other immigrants, and removing opportunities for individuals to seek deportation relief before a judge."
Federal policies on immigration, however, are trending in a more punitive direction. HHS is reportedly no longer funding education or legal services for the children it's holding prisoner, though the department is continuing to build facilities to hold them, like in Carrizo Springs.
In a tweet reporting on the Texas concentration camp's imminent opening, WFAA reporter Jason Whitley said the facility would "house more than 1,000 captured children." That language drew anger from immigrant rights advocates like Melissa Mark-Viverito, the interim president of Latino Victory US, who urged observers and reporter to not "concede to the GOP's attempt to control the language we use to describe this administration sponsored horror."
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"This is not normal!" added Mark-Viverito.
"a camp...to house more than 1,000 captured children"!!!!— Melissa Mark-Viverito (@MMViverito) June 20, 2019
We cannot concede to the GOP's attempt to control the language we use to describe this admin sponsored horror. Calling it a camp? As if this was a weekend/summer getaway? With sun? & fun? Hell no!! This is not normal! https://t.co/yKAU5uCSYX
The new camp is in the process of being converted to hold children separated from their families by agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the sub-agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that deal with immigration.
While HHS spokesperson Palmer didn't give a firm timeline for the camp's operations to begin, she did say that "HHS plans to start placing children at Carrizo Springs as soon as possible."
Reporting by ABC on the camp earlier this month quoted HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement spokesperson Mark Weber as saying Carrizo Springs was not the only anticipated new facility that will be opened in the coming months as his agency "is preparing for the need for high bed capacity to continue."
That prediction may well come to pass. As Common Dreams reported on Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced Monday night that his administration is planning a series of raids next week targeting immigrant families, targeting "millions."