Photos of a detention center housing separated migrant children

Geraldine Edwards
June 18, 2018

This is a new policy started by the Trump administration, called "zero tolerance". Jeff Merkley of OR from entering when he tried to tour the facility on June 3.

Images of an immigrant child detention center show the conditions in which almost 1,500 undocumented migrant boys were sheltered in Brownsville, Texas. Its capacity is now roughly 1,500. Center officials initially said they'd call the police on the visitors, but eventually allowed in the delegation.

The former superstore stretches across 250,000 square feet, but the bedrooms for the children housed there are tightly packed. NBC News was among the first to tour the facility, which closely resembled a jail and allows children outside for only two hours per day. Though the rooms were originally created to accommodate only four children, a fifth roommate, who spends his nights on a cot, has been added as the shelter takes in more children.

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Inside, the space no longer looks like a Walmart. The former McDonald's is now a sort of cafeteria.

Republican Rep. Will Hurd said Saturday that after touring a center in his Texas district where migrant children were being held "makes it very clear that in the home of the free and land of the courageous, we should not be using kids as a deterrent policy".

U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, a Republican who represents the area around Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, said he understood the administration needs to enforce immigration laws but questioned holding the minors on military bases.

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Last year, an officer at another shelter in Brownsville yelled at a child who had punched a wall. "Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families", Southwest Key's founder and CEO Juan Sanchez told the paper. The one that has perhaps drawn the most attention is of President Donald Trump himself.

The massive shelter retains a warehouse vibe - noisy but highly organized, with scores of staffers leading skeins of boys to various activities.

"HHS is legally required to provide care and shelter for all unaccompanied alien children referred by DHS, and works in close coordination with DHS on the security and safety of the children and community", Wolfe said in a statement. Ted Cruz again defended the Trump administration's controversial new policy of separating children from parents at the border, blaming migrants for putting their offspring in jeopardy and insisting that such tragedies also occurred in the Obama era.

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