The situation is so bad along the country’s southern border, that even members of Congress are forbidden from taking photographs of the legal refugee tent cities. Donald Trump just fired his Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen for refusing to break the law for him. Now, a virtually permanent acting director has replaced her. The Daily Beast managed to expose what is happening in these dreary tents.
Legal refugees seeking asylum live in tents within in barbed wire topped fences with not even a space for the children to play. Inside is worse, according to one congresswoman. The Daily Beast reporters had to watch the tent city operations from almost a quarter-mile away using a telephoto lens.
Although Peru’s population only numbers 30 million, it has efficiently received over a million refugees from Venezuela. Thus far, they have even set the refugees up in jobs.
Unlike Peru, White House senior advisor Stephen Miller favored the massive tent city solution to house the legal refugees. They are reminiscent of the terrible Japanese internment camps during World War II, a blight on America’s history.
Buses carrying up to 60 refugees dropped them off. Homeland Security staff handed out mylar blankets and paperwork. Then, they were taken to the 75-feet-long by 20-feet-wide tents. Each tent held enough cots for 148 people. These were not new tents, as the Daily Beast wrote:
‘Some are tattered, with sections of fabric flapping in the wind.’
The number of legal refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. has increased over 1,000 percent from 2018 and is larger than it has been in the past 12 years. Close to 100,000 refugees crossed the border, many near El Paso, Texas and were captured by the DHS in March alone. Nearly all of them have been fleeing the nearly indescribable violence of three Central American countries.
Representative Nanette Barragan (D-CA) and a congressional delegation visited the tent cities earlier in the month. She spoke about the immigrants, saying “their clothes are dirty, babies are not getting Pampers:”
‘One woman had a baby, a five-month-old baby and said she’d been there for five days. The baby had filthy clothes. The situation is unhealthy. People are in a confined space, they’re not getting showers, their clothes are dirty, babies are not getting Pampers like they should be. These ladies were crying and telling us their stories and it was just heartbreaking.’
Barragán was banned from taking photos of migrants, but she described a dire situation inside of the tents. These tents had no cots and people were forced to sleep on a simple, temorary tent floor right on top of the asphalt parking lot under it. Some parents placed their babies on their own legs rather than the covered asphalt. It will only get worse as the summer months heat the asphalt. Barragan said there was not even enough food:
‘We were stepping over people to walk around in the tent. And the food is… We’re talking ramen and Cup of Noodles, Capri Suns and juice boxes, maybe a frozen burrito if you’re lucky.’
She continued, saying that people only got “a shower every three days” if they were lucky:
‘I was really taken aback by the smell. I was in there for five minutes and I just became nauseous, I hate to say it. It’s just too many people for that size area and people hadn’t had a shower for many days. Border Patrol told us it was their goal to get people a shower every three days, but the mother I spoke to there hadn’t had one and she’d been there for five. Basically, people are packed into these tents. They haven’t fixed the problem; they just moved it.’
Lourdes Ortiz is part of El Paso’s Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee. She wondered why the refugees were being held for so long:
‘There’s no need for them to taking this much time to process people. Even if the excuse is that there’s no capacity to house people to process, that to me is a result of refusing to acknowledge the change in the numbers of people who have been coming to the border.’
Barragan was worried:
‘One of my concerns is they’re slowing down the process almost intentionally and they’re helping create the appearance of this backlog. I don’t know this for sure, and I have nothing to point to other than our history of not getting truthful information from this administration and these agencies.’
Director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin Stephanie Leutert said:
‘If you look at the patterns you’ll see apprehensions between ports of entries skyrocketing but the number of people taken in at ports stays roughly the same. Metering is absolutely still happening just as it has been for some time now.’
Immigrant advocacy organization RAICES Texas member Erika Andiola said:
“The fact is that none of this has worked. Conditions in Central America are terrible and people are willing to make the sacrifice to give their families a better future. It is up to us whether we welcome them in a humane way, or we torture them for no good reason.’