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Tornillo Port of Entry Will Become Temporary Shelter For Immigrant Minors

Shelters that house immigrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border are reaching capacity in the wake of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. (Photo: Department of Health and Human Services)

By Carlos Morales

The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed today that the port of entry in Tornillo, Texas — just outside of El Paso — will now be the site of a temporary shelter for migrant minors. The news comes as the country’s existing shelter space nears capacity.

In the next few days, 360 children are expected to arrive in Tornillo.
The town of 1,500 will be home to the the first new temporary shelter space set up by the Trump administration. Health and Human Services provided few details on the what the facilities will look, but according to the Texas Tribune, a department spokesperson said the "tents would be air conditioned."

According to KTSM in El Paso, unaccompanied immigrant children were previously sheltered at the Tornillo Port of Entry in 2016.

State Representative Mary Gonzalez was briefed on the proposal a week ago. Her district includes Tornillo.

"This problem is self-created. When we implemented the zero-tolerance policy, even for asylum seekers, we automatically created an influx into our system," says Gonzalez

It’s still unclear if the children who’ll be sheltered in Tornillo crossed into the United States by themselves, or immigration authorities separated them from their parents at the border.

HHS is also considering three air force bases in West Texas — including Fort Bliss in El Paso — as temporary shelter locations.

Multiple sources say up to 450 unaccompanied immigrant children can be housed at the Tornillo port of entry.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.