October 16, 2018

KENNEDY STATEMENT ON VISIT TO TORNILLO TENT CITY

Newton, MA — Congressman Joe Kennedy III released the following statement this morning after visiting the Trump Administration’s tent city for migrant children in Tornillo, Texas yesterday.

“It’s simple: these are conditions under which no child on American soil should live. The facility managers, emergency personnel and dedicated professionals helping run the operation in Tornillo appear to be doing the best they can in circumstances outside their control. There is food, shelter, medical treatment and educational enrichment available to the children in their care. But we are talking about kids no more than seventeen years old, separated from their families and their homes, having endured danger and trauma few of us can imagine to arrive at our borders seeking protection and opportunity.

“And rather than being expeditiously placed with family members and other sponsors while their immigration cases are heard, the Trump Administration has deliberately put up barriers to reunification that keeps some 13,000 children scattered across 100 different sites in 17 different states. And yes, the tents we saw were clean and heated and decorated — but that does not make them acceptable.

“Perhaps worst of all, the number of children detained in these sites is increasing by the day -- not due to any influx in migration pattern but because of deliberate choices made by this Administration. Of the nearly 1,400 children currently housed in Tornillo, over 800 have identified sponsors who are caught in the Trump Administration’s inefficient and often unworkable background check system. The President’s new policy sharing sponsor fingerprints between HHS and DHS has resulted in the deportation of sponsors that have come forward, creating a dangerous chilling effect on our ability to find safe homes for these kids. Finally, a profound lack of legal assistance further stymies the process, as little affirmative effort is made by HHS officials to ensure that every single child in their care has access to the aid they need to help them navigate the legal maze of immigration proceedings.

"Speaking in Spanish, one young girl begged us for help finding her family. Another asked if we could take her back to Massachusetts with us so she could be with her family in Lynn. A boy told us he had been in Tornillo for four months and had no advocate to help him find his relatives. Other children nodded in agreement, despite the fact administrators claim the children have access to this assistance. Inexplicably, one administrator said perhaps the kids did not want the help that was offered to them. Our brief experience begged to differ.

“This visit reinforced what the past few months have made abundantly clear, that the surging number of migrant children detained for months on end in threadbare facilities is a crisis of the Trump Administration’s making. Rather than partner with Congress to address the root causes of migration or pursue a humane immigration policy worthy of the human lives it touches, they have chosen a politically-driven approach that puts the cost of our broken immigration system squarely on the shoulders of terrified children with nowhere else to go.”

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For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018 

Contact:
Dan Black (202) 225-5931