Ever since Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley tried to visit a children's detention center in Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains under heightened scrutiny for enforcing the Justice Department's new policy for dealing with asylum seekers and other migrants with children at the United States southern border. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General and head of the Justice Department, unveiled President Donald Trump's plan back on May 7.
If you take away children and detain them separate from their parents, you can more easily control the parents.
The plan, while highly effective, has even the United Nations calling it inhumane. It also caused many to ask what happened with all of the children, some less than 2 years old.
Are they receiving proper care? What are their living conditions?
MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff got a chance to see for himself on Wednesday and shared his experience on Twitter.
I’m a part of the first group of journalists to go into the shelter for detained child migrants in Brownsville Texa… https://t.co/b7WX5voV2v— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528927089.0
“The kids here don’t get out much – spending almost 22 hours a day indoors.”- @jacobsoboroff is one of the first jo… https://t.co/PfxtnSI96C— TODAY (@TODAY)1528974969.0
Soboroff stated one of the first things he noted was a mural of President Donald Trump. Then added the presidential murals are everywhere.
Just finished tour, don’t even know where to start. One of the first things you notice when you walk into the she… https://t.co/AZx4skXOr8— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528931528.0
The facility he toured, Casa Padre, housed about 1,500 boys aged 10-17 and is overcrowded. Rooms designed to sleep 4 are housing 5. Because they're above legally allowed capacity, they received a waiver from Texas to continue operating.
This shelter, Casa Padre, is the largest licensed childcare facility of its kind in the country. Nearly 1,500 boys… https://t.co/rQQQwk1TLI— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528932192.0
The next day, Soboroff noted Casa Padre, despite a weekly conference call with federal officials, received no advance notice about the implementation of the new Trump border policy that has led to the severe overcrowding.
Forgot to mention last night: folks at the shelter have a weekly policy call with feds about changes that will affe… https://t.co/SVV75jWWRg— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528976842.0
The Justice Department and Trump administration keep pointing to the violent gang, MS-13, as the reason for the change in border policy, enforced even against those who voluntarily surrender at the border and ask for asylum. However Casa Padre says MS-13 is a non-issue for them.
Officials here said they’ve never had an MS-13 member here, ever.— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528932273.0
And how do the children feel being in this detention center?
Moments after we walked in a shelter employee asked us to smile at hundreds of detained migrant kids in line for a… https://t.co/lvUeswstKF— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528933839.0
The detention center is in a former Walmart so the building location and structure poses limitations on the children's ability to be outside or in the sunshine.
Detention center employees follow strict protocols on access to the building.
Instructions to employees in the lobby of the shelter if you encounter media: 1) “Immediatelt notify PD,” or the p… https://t.co/ugXJbEi8Fk— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528934651.0
The MSNBC correspondent noted that Casa Padre is called a shelter by the workers and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who arranged his visit. But the facility is not voluntary.
Unlike a shelter, these children cannot leave at will. They cannot receive visitors. They cannot see family members.
I have been inside a federal prison and county jails. This place is called a shelter but these kids are incarcera… https://t.co/PMKnpkQrS9— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528936778.0
But at least these children have a roof over their heads and licensed staff to care for them. The new tent cities proposed by the Trump administration to handle the overflow will not be as well staffed or appointed.
Something I just told @chrislhayes: this place is a licensed child care facility with trained staff. There are 26 o… https://t.co/VXPJ2rhcKh— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528938590.0
Cameras were not allowed in the facility, but HHS provided photos for tour members.
Starting to get some handout photos from our tour with @HHSGov. Here’s the Trump mural I mentioned to… https://t.co/FdGl3TC6Dr— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528939555.0
Here are some photos of the boys in the cafeteria. This is not a school cafeteria. Hundreds called to eat at a… https://t.co/hIVpWhGhAp— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528942146.0
As a final note, Soboroff pointed out the space limitations the boys are under and the hours of artificial light and darkness they live in.
One final thing that stuck out: this former WalMart is 250,000 square feet. The boys have under *40* square feet… https://t.co/gWERvRzOkv— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528950290.0
He also gave a hat tip to Senator Merkley for getting the ball rolling.
I agree with @lawrence. We likely wouldn’t have had a shot at getting inside Casa Padre tonight had… https://t.co/mYysDZ27R8— Jacob Soboroff (@Jacob Soboroff)1528954703.0
The American Civil Liberties Union brought suit trying to overturn this new border policy, but for now this is what children whose parents fled tyranny to seek asylum face.