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How Did So Many Migrant Children End Up In Tornillo, And Why Did It Close?

On January 11, 2019, the last migrant child left the HHS-run temporary Tornillo Shelter. (Courtesy of Health and Human Services)

As of January 11, there are no longer migrant children being held at a U.S. Health and Human Services facility in Tornillo, Texas.

The shelter sprang up last summer and housed mostly minors who crossed the border without parents or adult family members. It received scrutiny as it opened during family separation as a result of the now-reversed “zero-tolerance” policy. The tent city quickly became a flashpoint for critics of the Trump Administration.

During Tornillo’s operation, about 6,200 unaccompanied minors were housed at the site over time. While the majority of them have since been released to sponsors, somewhere between 300 to 700 children have been placed in more permanent shelters across the country.

On this episode, Diana Nguyen speaks to Marfa Public Radio reporters Carlos Morales, Sally Beauvais, and  El Paso-based journalist Bob Moore about the Tornillo shelter's opening, closure, and the policies that shaped the significant uptick of children in government custody.

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